Campaigners have been thrown a lifeline in their bid to secure the long-term future of the under-threat Limavady Courthouse.
Justice Minister Claire Sugden announced yesterday (Tuesday) that she was reversing the decision by her predecessor, which would have seen the landmark building on Main Street shut.
It was one of six earmarked for closure under a rationalisation plan announced by David Ford in February of this year. He told the assembly that his decision was based on “unprecedented financial pressures” and the under use of courthouses.
However, solicitors and politicians in the town led a campaign to retain the courthouse.
In a statement to the Assembly, Minister Sugden said: “As members know in May 2016 Judicial Review proceedings were commenced challenging the decision to close Ballymena, Lisburn and Strabane courthouses. In view of this, when appointed as Justice Minister, I indicated that none of the six courthouses would close pending the outcome of the Judicial Review proceedings.
“Since taking that decision, I have had time to listen to a range of views on this subject and reflect on what will be a changing justice landscape during this Assembly mandate and beyond.”
Referring to a number of initiatives to improve the way justice is delivered, she continued: “I have concluded that now is not the time to proceed with court closures on the scale envisaged.
“Consequently I have decided to reverse the decision taken in the previous mandate and I have instructed my officials to advise the High Court accordingly
“I have not taken this decision lightly and I am of course aware that the NI Courts and Tribunals Service will have to find savings in other areas of their budgets if they are to deliver the efficiencies expected of them.
However given the changing justice landscape I have concluded that we should retain maximum flexibility within the court estate for the time being.
Welcoming the announcement, DUP East Lononderry MLA George Robinson MLA said: “I had long argued that the courthouses delivered a valued public service .”