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)
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.
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.
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.