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Cost of by-passing courthouse will hit the public purse

A DECISION to by-pass Strabane courthouse as an alternative facility during the closure of Derry Court this summer has been criticised due to the additional pressure it will put on the public purse. 

From July 9 until the start of September, Derry Court will be closed for maintenance with all business moved to Omagh and Coleraine.
 
However one local councillor believes the cost of making people drive through Strabane to use the court in Omagh will soon add up.

Independent councillor Patsy Kelly explained, “The cost of ferrying solicitors and police officers to Omagh and Coleraine will be substantial. I feel it is not sensible to transport these individuals 34 miles to Omagh instead of 14 to nearby Strabane to minimise cost. This decision will put more pressure on the public purse.”

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Cllr  Kelly also feels the move is contradictory to previous threats to close Strabane Courthouse amid claims it was under utilised. 

“The whole thing when Strabane Court was closing was that is wasn’t being utilised. I am now calling on the Court Service to utilise the court and make accommodations where possible. Strabane is much closer than the other courthouses, and now is our chance to use it and save public money.” 

Fellow Independent councillor Paul Gallagher says travel costs will hit all users of the court, “Those travelling to and from the court will be forced to pay extra for bus fares and travel,” he said. 

“When summonsed by a court, one must attend regardless of location. The court should be kept in Derry and a suitable place found nearby.”
With the move to have an impact on taxpayers, John O’Connell from the Taxpayers Alliance said costs need to be kept down in such a situation. 

‘Taxpayers will be disappointed with this news. Every effort should be taken to ensure any additional costs are kept to a bare minimum,”  he said. 

When asked why Strabane had not been considered as an alternative location a spokesperson for the Courts Service said, “This response concerns the outcome of the NICTS (Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service) considerations for the temporary closure of Derry Courthouse”. When asked to clarify what this statement meant, the spokesperson refused to give further response. 

A motion calling for the court to be kept within Derry while the repair work is being carried out is due to be brought forward at a council meeting this afternoon. 
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