Saturday 17 March 2018

Courthouse closures would 'make no sense'

Solicitor John Hennessy
Solicitor John Hennessy

Nicola Donnelly

CONCERN is mounting over a proposal to close Swords and Balbriggan Courthouses and move court sittings to the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin city.

A review of the courts services in the greater Dublin area including Swords and Balbriggan was undertaken by the Courts Service last year and according to the Courts Service this review is still under consideration.

The purpose of the review was to examine options to ensure that the Courts Service can continue to maintain an appropriate level of front line services to court users throughout Dublin city and county.

According to the Courts Service, 'no decision has been made to close any of these venues,' and that the review is still under consideration.

However, a Swords-based solicitor has expressed his disappointment on hearing of a proposal to close both courthouses and move them out of districts that cater for up to 70,000 people.

John Hennessy, a Fianna Fail local election candidate, who has been practising as a solicitor in the Swords area for the past ten years, told the Fingal Independent that the proposal 'makes absolutely no sense to me.'

He fears that if the closures of both courthouses, which have worked very well for decades in both towns and are integral parts of the fabric of the local community, goes ahead, it will bring a severe blow to both towns.

'The District Courts are in the town centres. Swords and Balbriggan town centres, similar to many town centres, have declined over recent years and the closure of the courthouses would be another blow to the viability of the town centres,' said Mr. Hennessy.

He has written a letter to Judge Rosemary Horgan, the President of the District Courts, outlining his and other local solicitors concerns and objections to the proposal.

He has also requested the District Courts President to liaise with the Courts Service to make known to them his views, which he said, are supported by his colleagues in Swords and Balbriggan.

He feels that the closure of both courthouses will cause clients in family, civil and criminal matters to travel a considerable distance to attend court. This, he said, would often involve at least two different buses and a travel time of an hour-and-a-half.

He also believes that a closure of the Swords Courthouse would result in little or no savings to the State as he understands that the Courts Service owns the building outright.

The Courts Service has stated however, that any proposal to change the status of Swords and Balbriggan District Courts would be subject to a comprehensive and detailed assessment.

'The criteria which would be taken into consideration would include an assessment of travelling distances which court users might have to make to an alternative Court venue,' the statement continued.

'This review would inform any future process for making proposals, and would then would become a matter for the Board of the Courts Service.'

A garda source said he was aware that that issue was being discussed at a 'higher level'.

Fingal Independent