Justice Minister reverses decision to close Magherafelt Courthouse

The decision to close Magherafelt Courthouse has been reversed
The decision to close Magherafelt Courthouse has been reversed

A Magherafelt solicitor has described the decision to keep open the local Courthouse as “a victory for commonsense.”

Stephen Atherton, who fronted South Derry Solicitors Association’s long campaign to reverse the closure decision, said he is “delighted” with the Justice Minister’s decision.

“In particular, I’m delighted for the people of Magherafelt and surrounding area,” he said.

“The facility was needed in the town and it means local people won’t be out of pocket having to travel to Dungannon.”

Mr Atherton added that it was good they now had a Justice Minister who was prepared to listen to the stakeholders’ who delivered the service to the community.

The announcement that the 144-year-old Courthouse at Hospital Road is to remain open was made in the Assembly on Tuesday.

The Minister Claire Sugden said she intended to halt the closure of six courthouses taken during the mandate of the previous Assembly.

“Having considered representations from the community and in light of a number of developments, including Lord Justice Gillen’s Review of Civil and Family Justice and the new Programme for Government focus on problem solving Justice, I do not consider that it would be appropriate to proceed with the proposed closures at this time,” she said.

“Recognising the need to rationalise the court estate, however, I must ensure that when moving forward we have sufficient flexibility to deliver better outcomes for the community through reform and innovation.

“I have asked the NI Courts and Tribunals Service, working with the Lord Chief Justice, to consider the requirements of the court estate in the context of a changing justice environment, mindful that facilities must meet the needs of those using our courts and in particular that the needs of victims and witnesses.”

The Department will continue to monitor the use of the court estate and any future decisions around rationalisation would be subject to a fresh consultation.