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Legal challenges to courthouse closures are approved

By Alan Erwin

Published 17/06/2016

A judge has cleared the way for legal challenges to decisions to shut three courthouses in Northern Ireland
A judge has cleared the way for legal challenges to decisions to shut three courthouses in Northern Ireland

A judge has cleared the way for legal challenges to decisions to shut three courthouses in Northern Ireland.

Leave was granted to seek judicial reviews of the planned closures in Strabane, Ballymena and Lisburn.

With the cases now advancing to a full hearing at the end of October, all three of the courthouses are expected to remain open until that stage at least.

Action is being taken against the Department of Justice separately by a firm of solicitors and two members of the public.

They claim the move is based on a flawed consultation process and equality impact assessment.

In February, former Justice Minister David Ford announced five courthouses are to close - the three under challenge along with Armagh and Magherafelt.

He cited unprecedented financial pressures, falling staff levels and under-usage.

His decision to shut Strabane is being challenged by John Fahy & Co, while two women who use facilities in Ballymena and Lisburn have brought similar cases.

At the High Court yesterday it was claimed that the closures could impact on the administration of justice and there was a lack of publicity on the closures.

The judge ruled that leave to seek a judicial review should be granted in all three applications.

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