Courthouses: Additional Services

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 22nd February 2016.

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Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 22nd February 2016

T2. Mr Hazzard asked the Minister of Justice, given his recent statement about the court estate, whether his Department will now look at the remaining courts, the services that they offer and, particularly in the case of Downpatrick courthouse, whether the potential exists to introduce additional services. (AQT 3522/11-16)

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

There I was thinking that, when I made the courts announcement, Mr Hazzard did a good job by not just making a plea for his local courthouse. The simple answer is that there are no plans to take additional services into Downpatrick at this stage. On the basis of transport and communications links, Downpatrick is seen as serving a fairly discrete area. It is a bit like the point that I made in response to Mr Ross, which was that, no doubt, Members will suggest all kinds of different projects that might be run in particular courthouses, but we need to ensure that we get the balance right and that we manage the costs right, with a lot of the new proposals, such as on problem-solving courts, being handled in the best way to provide an efficient service.

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister for his answer. I want to thank him for giving special acknowledgement to the very rural needs, nature and aspects of South Down, which are why the Downpatrick court exists. I wish the Health Minister would do likewise. Perhaps there is the potential for a refurbishment grant or some sort of resource to be made available to bring Downpatrick courthouse up to the standard that we expect.

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

Members are well aware of DOJ's difficult budget situation. I have no doubt that the Courts and Tribunals Service is keeping all its buildings under review, but I have not, at this stage, seen any specific proposals for renovation in Downpatrick. I suspect that the reality of the next financial year or two is that it will be unlikely that there will be anything significant within that timescale.