Armagh courthouse could be the latest service in the district to be closed following further budgetary cuts.
The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) is proposing to reduce the current statutory Court Divisions from seven to three and close courthouses in Armagh, Ballymena, Enniskillen, Limavady, Lisburn, Magherafelt, Newtownards and Strabane due to a reduction in funding.
David Ford said: “The financial challenges facing the NI Courts and Tribunals Service mean that continuing to operate the current 20 courthouses is no longer sustainable.
“The closure of up to eight courthouses is one of a number of measures aimed at strategically positioning the Courts and Tribunals Service for the challenges it will face over the next three to five years. It will also contribute to the Executive’s wider Public Sector Reform and Restructuring Programme.”
Mr Ford added: “Court closures will undoubtedly have a significant impact on court and tribunal users. But we are committed to working with the Judiciary to minimise the impact and to ensure efficient and effective service delivery.”
In a statement The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, said the cuts would impact vulnerable victims as well as court and tribunal users.
In an interview with the BBC he said: “The Department of Justice has a statutory duty under section 68A of the Judicature (NI) Act 1978 to provide an efficient and effective system to support the courts and to provide appropriate services to do this.”
“I recognise that the public finances require tough, sometimes even undesirable choices to be made, but this statutory obligation is designed to reflect one of the basic governance principles in a democratic society.”
The NICTS had delivered cuts of £23.3m over the last four year and was facing a further reduction of more than 10% in 2015/16, around £2.3m.
The courthouse was built between 1806 and 1809 and underwent complete reconstruction in the mid-1960s.
Further restorative work was carried out after 3 September 1993 when a bomb exploded directly outside the courthouse causing major structural damage to the roof, façade and walls.
The main courtrooms were damaged and in the force of the blast one of the pillars was moved back a full nine inches.
Courtrooms were refurbished and a new 3-storey extension was added to the rear. An extensive programme of reconstruction and enlargement costing £8 million ensued and on 15 January 1999 the courthouse was officially opened by the Lord Chancellor.
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