Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council is to write to the Northern Ireland Courts Service to object to a proposal to close Lisburn Youth Court.
At their meeting on Tuesday evening, councillors were presented with correspondence from the Lord Chief Justice’s office notifying them of plans to move Youth Court cases from Lisburn to Laganside Courthouse in Belfast.
The Justice Minister announced last October that the city’s courthouse, which had been earmarked for closure as part of a cost-cutting exercise, would remain open. However, the proposal to close the Youth Court has sparked fresh concerns that the building could once again be under threat.
Commenting on the issue, Cllr Alexander Redpath said the piecemeal withdrawal of services from the local courthouse amounted to “a death by a thousand cuts”.
“The council unanimously backed my proposal to write to the Courts Service protesting against this proposal,” he said.
“The council contributed very successfully to the campaign to keep the courthouse open. We did not go to this effort and expense to preserve the courthouse as an empty building.”
The UUP man added: “I passionately believe that our residents should have access to justice in their local community and this proposal from the Courts Service is a huge step backwards.
“As a solicitor who practices in the Belfast courts I can personally testify that they are operating at capacity. Moving more services to Belfast will lead to more overcrowding, delays, cancellations and will ultimately impede the administration of justice.”
A spokesperson for the Lord Chief Justice’s private office gave an assurance that the proposal is “not part of a wider plan to close Lisburn Courthouse.”
“A report on a review of the listing of business in the Magistrates’ Court has issued to interested stakeholders and will shortly be posted on the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service website. The Lord Chief Justice will seek views on proposals contained in the report,” she added.
Responding to the news, Janice Spence of the Lisburn Solicitors’ Association commented: “We are aware that there were rumours circulating with regard to this, but we as an association haven’t been contacted by either the Courts Service or the Lord Chief Justice’s office to be informed of this. We would be very concerned about the lack of consultation and will be making our own enquiries.”