Monday 24 November 2014

Four city courthouses to be closed down in radical plan to shake up system

Published 05/06/2014 | 02:30

Broadcaster and former Minister for Justice Nora Owen speaking to Norah Casey at the Irish Tatler Academy titled 'Tomorrow's Ireland: Meet the Game Changers' at the Convention Centre in Dublin yesterday.
Pic Steve Humphreys
22nd May 2014.
Broadcaster and former Minister for Justice Nora Owen speaking to Norah Casey at the Irish Tatler Academy titled 'Tomorrow's Ireland: Meet the Game Changers' at the Convention Centre in Dublin yesterday. Pic Steve Humphreys 22nd May 2014.

FOUR city courthouses will cease operating under the most radical overhaul of the Dublin courts system in the history of the State.

Former Justice Minister Nora Owen has supported the revamp, which would see Tallaght, Dun Laoghaire, Swords and Balbriggan courthouses scrapped.

It would also mean that all road traffic cases will be heard in the court in Blanchardstown.

And all criminal matters in both Dublin county and city would be centralised in the Criminal Courts of Justice under the plans.

The reorganisation would also help to create an extra child and family court.

The Courts Service said the best use of existing resources can only be achieved by reducing the overall number of locations for legal hearings in both Dublin city and county.

Former Fine Gael Minister Ms Owen said there was logic in “modernising” the system at this point in time.

“Like any institution of the State, the courts have to be constantly reviewing how they're working,” she told the Irish Independent.

“We have some very old courthouses. They're not very comfortable places, and I'm sure they're costing a lot of money to heat and keep secure.

“Just because they've been there for 80 years doesn't mean they're meeting the demands of the modern age.

“A lot of money has gone into the new Criminal Courts, so there is an interest in seeing it used to its full capacity,'' she added.

A key part of the new plans is to make best use of the facilities in the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street, as well as increasing efficiencies all round, such as improving courtroom accommodation.

As part of a twin-track approach, it is suggested by the Courts Service that criminal cases would be centralised in the Criminal Courts of Justice complex and traffic cases would be held in Blanchardstown courthouse.

Inconvenience

Juvenile cases currently heard in Blanchardstown, Dun Laoghaire and Tallaght would be transferred to the Children's Court in Smithfield.

All other legal business currently dealt with in Swords, Balbriggan, Dun Laoghaire and Tallaght would be allocated to existing civil and family law courts in the city centre.

The Courts Service accepts that the proposed closures will cause inconvenience for some people, but said the result would be improved services for the public. “The changes we are proposing are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the organisation and delivery of District Court business in Dublin,” the Courts Service said in a statement.

“Our staff are currently stretched to the limit to meet and maintain existing service levels, and at the same time meet increasing demand.”

The Courts Service has invited submissions from interested parties.| It is expected the new arrangements will come into place next January after they are considered by the Courts Service Building Committee at the end of this month.

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