Concern over Londonderry courthouse closure

Londonderry Court House
Image caption The court on Bishop Street will shut for two months so essential maintenance work can be carried out

There is growing concern in Londonderry about plans to close the city's courthouse over the summer.

The closure was necessary so essential maintenance work can be carried out, said the Northern Ireland Court and Tribunal Service (NICTS).

Cases due to be heard in Derry during the summer will be heard in Omagh or Coleraine.

The Derry courthouse will be closed from 9 July until the beginning of September.

"The NICTS has been advised by the appointed contractor specialist engineers of an estimated eight-week construction programme," said a NICTS spokesman.

Solicitor Kevin Casey said the closure would cause huge disruption for clients.

"You are talking about parents involved in contact disputes, parents involved in youth court, people involved in petty sessions cases who are now being told they will have to travel 30 miles plus to another court house," he said.

"These people are frequently in receipt of legal aid and don't have access to private transport."

Those involved in domestic violence and family court cases could now face the "appalling vista of the victims of domestic violence having to travel on the same public transport as the alleged perpetrator", added Mr Casey.

Peter Crory of Victim Support NI said summer was the right time to carry out maintenance work, as crown courts were in recess.

"But it presents a real challenge for us," he added. "I would like to think we will be able to find a way where victims or witnesses are mixing with defendants, where they are not sharing a bus."

SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan urged NICTS to reconsider the closure.

NICTS said it would maintain the public counter services at Londonderry Courthouse during the summer.

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