Law chief hits out at court closure decision

The spokesman for Northern Ireland's lawyers has said the closure of Ballymena courthouse will lead to '˜overcrowding and delays.'

John Guerin of the Law Society

John Guerin, the President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, said the decision will cause great disruption, inconvenience and unnecessary stress to court users and those seeking access to justice.

He continued: “The reality is that a reduced court infrastructure will mean an increased volume of cases being spread across a more limited range of court venues resulting in the potential for overcrowding and delays of business.

Instead of serving to improve the efficiency of the justice system and protect access to justice, it will undermine the effectiveness of the system and leave those that need it most without access to their local court.

“This will be most evident in rural communities where access to public transport services is limited, incomes are lower and levels of unemployment and social deprivation levels are much higher.

The ‘real’ impact on court users who do not have their own transport, who are on low incomes, who will be forced to move to a different courthouse away from their support network and travel expenses cannot be measured in efficiency or monetary savings.

“The health of local economies and communities are intrinsically linked and the loss of spending power in these towns were courts are closed will put additional pressures on those local town centres to survive.

It does not serve the interests of justice to leave communities without access to local courthouses or to endanger the future of businesses in local town centres.”