The battle to save Lisburn courthouse has been taken to Stormont.
Representatives from Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council have met with members of the Stormont Justice Committee to stress the need to keep the building open.
Lisburn Courthouse is one of eight in Northern Ireland that has been earmarked for closure. However, a petition with over 2,500 signatures was presented to the Court Service earlier this month, calling for it to remain open.
Now, the council have followed that up by giving evidence to the Justice Committee.
“The Council is fully supportive of Lisburn Courthouse remaining open as it provides a vital service to the city area,” said Alderman James Tinsley. “Through its Community Planning process, this legal building was identified as a vital component to ensure adequate provision of services to the local community.
“The council has been collating evidence in partnership with other agencies such as the Health Trust and those involved in justice related activities, community and voluntary organisations to look at alternative uses for the courthouse, which include a community safety/justice hub, family mediation, community based support for young people and rehabilitation services.
“Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council used its allocated time in front of the Justice Committee to present all its essential information to enable the Justice Minister and the Northern Ireland Court Service to make a fully informed decision about Lisburn Courthouse. It is imperative that the city has an allocated courthouse within its area to deal with judicial matters relating to its citizens and to play its part in serving the local communities,” concluded Mr Tinsley.
A full report of the council’s recommendations will be submitted later in the summer.
Representatives from other council areas were also present at the meeting to speak on behalf of the proposed courthouse closures in their area.
The meeting of the Justice Committee comes after a report by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate said that “retaining the current estates infrastructure is not an option.”
The report also suggested that the services provided at Lisburn courthouse should be transferred to Laganside.
“The NICTS could consider the reduced utilisation at Laganside and Lisburn as an opportunity to transfer business from a court building (Lisburn) that has very poor custody accommodation and vehicle access to one of the most modern courts in the NICTS estate.”
Justice Minister David Ford is proposing to close hearing centres in Limavady, Strabane, Enniskillen, Magherafelt, Ballymena, Newtownards, Armagh and Lisburn in a bid to absorb an 11 per cent – £2.3 million – annual funding cut to the courts service.