A public meeting was held at Lisburn Courthouse on Monday (April 13) to discuss proposals to close the facility.
The Department of Justice recently published plans to make budget cuts by closing a number of courthouses in Northern Ireland, including that in Lisburn.
However, there has been strong objection to the proposal in Lisburn, with a petition launched opposing any closure of the city’s courthouse.
The meeting was well attended by the Lisburn Solicitor’s profession and by members of the public affected by the proposed closure. Lisburn is one of a number of courthouses marked for closure by the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service.
Lisburn’s Deputy Mayor, Councillor Alexander Redpath, is encouraging local people to voice their opinion on the proposals and to make their objections to the plans known.
“These courthouse closures are being opposed by the local solicitors profession and The Lord Chief Justice has taken the rare step of publicly expressing his concerns about the proposals,” said Mr Redpath.
“I have responded to the Department of Justice consultation and I would urge anyone concerned with the future of the courthouse to do so before the end of the month when the consultation closes.
“Lisburn residents require access to a local courthouse. Lisburn Courthouse hosts not only criminal cases but also family cases and it is vital that our residents can easily access a site they are comfortable with.
“Court proceedings are amongst the most stressful times in a person’s life. Moving Lisburn cases to Belfast would result in increased travel time and expense for Lisburn residents.
“Moreover as someone who has practiced as a solicitor in both Belfast and Lisburn I can state with confidence that Belfast could not cope with the volume of new cases proposed. This would lead to overcrowding and delay which would slow down the justice system and increase waiting for trails. This would greatly increase the level of distress experienced by those going through the court system.”
Speaking at the launch of the petition, the Chairman of the Lisburn Solicitor’s Association, Janice Spence, said: “We as an Association believe that a city needs a courthouse and that its citizens should have access to justice on their doorstep. If it closes, Lisburn citizens will have to travel to Belfast to attend court and access justice, with all of the attendant difficulties and expenses which that will involve.”