Decisions on future of nine courts to be made this month by Court Service board
Closures will reduce access to justice - say local solicitors
The same report also said €3,890 would be saved annually by the closure and even this figure was “hopelessly wrong”, he said, when additional costs for gardaí travelling to Tullamore, the suggested alternative, were taken into account.
He said there was a concerted effort by the Courts Service to “come up with excuses to close courts”, but in reality it was “a clear policy decision by the Government to centralise services”.
Brian Morgan of Morgan McManus solicitors, in Clones said the courthouse there was refurbished at a cost of almost €1 million three years ago, but only scored eight out of 10 available points for condition and no points were awarded for wheelchair access.
He said the closure of Clones courthouse would really affect private citizens who would have to travel to Monaghan town. People who were less well off would be most affected by this, he said, as there was no suitable public transport system.
Maura O’Donovan, secretary of the West Cork Bar Association, said the biggest concern was access to justice for Cork citizens. District court venues had been reduced from 12 to six over the past 10 years. There was very limited public transport, she said, and there was a possibility people would not pursue cases because of the increased access and delays the amalgamation will cause.
A spokesman for the Courts Service said the transfer of court cases from underused court venues to larger centres nearby would generate some savings in day-to-day costs, and more in the costs of long-term upkeep, maintenance and refurbishment.
“But more importantly, such moves free up judicial and staff time to deal with more cases, over full days, in busier locations,” he said. This would help the Courts Service and the judiciary to further save time, reduce waiting lists to have cases heard and facilitate family law days, children’s hearings and licensing courts more easily.
“This is particularly important when the service is working to maintain service levels in an environment of continually reducing staff numbers and other resources. It is the flexibility sought in the Croke Park agreement being put into action.”
The spokesman also said that of the €900,000 spent in Clones, some €200,000 was contributed by the Courts Service and the balance by the local authority. The upgrade also included local authority services, a theatre and other facilities. Only 350 cases were held at Clones in 2012, he said, the equivalent of 31 cases per sitting. “There just isn’t the demand for it.”
He added that refurbishment work on Edenderry was carried out 15 years ago and had “paid for itself”.
* This article was modified on July 12th to correct an error