Friday 19 January 2018

Law Society warns trials could collapse if four Dublin courthouses close

Swords courthouse
Swords courthouse

The Law Society is warning that the proposed closure of four courthouses in Dublin will lead to the collapse of criminal trials due to absent witnesses.

Plans for the closure of courthouses at Swords, Balbriggan, Tallaght and Dun Laoghaire were announced earlier this month.

The Courts Services is now holding a period of consultation of the proposed move.

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland programme this morning, Law Society President Ken Murphy said the move was "driven solely by economics".

"One thing we will certainly agree on is that this is about saving money.

"We say it is certainly not about improving services for the public which is what should be about."

Mr Murphy said he met with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last week and the mooted closure was one of several issues he discussed with her.

He said he was told it was not a matter for her department, but for the Courts Service.

"I said; 'Minister it is a matter for you, it is a matter for central government'. This is resulting from cuts to the courts service," Mr Murphy said.

"In Tallaght for example, an area with a population greater than Limerick, instead of the criminal courts, which sit many days a week, instead of them sitting in Tallaght now with many local gardai prosecuting crime, shoplifting whatever local crime may be taking place, all that now goes into the Courts of Criminal Justice in the city centre.

"The effect will be a great reduction in the visibility and the operational effectiveness it seems of local gardai who will now have to travel miles to another venue and spend half the day there."

The closures have the support of former Minister for Justice Nora Owen.

The plans 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.

Speaking earlier this month, 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.

Irish Independent

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