Derry solicitors assured Bishop Street courthouse will reopen

Derry solicitors assured Bishop Street courthouse will reopen

Northern Ireland’s justice minister Naomi Long has reassured Derry solicitors that the city’s Bishop Street courthouse will reopen “once Covid has passed”.

Department of Justice officials have met with the Law Society of Northern Ireland and are set to meet with the Foyle Local Solicitors Association to discuss the situation in Derry.

Crown Court business was temporarily relocated from Derry to Coleraine following the resumption of jury trials because the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) concluded that 12 jurors could not be accommodated in the Bishop Street courthouse while complying with social distancing rules.

Mrs Long told MLAs yesterday: “We recognise that it is an inconvenience to have to travel to attend court, but that is an inconvenience that people across Northern Ireland – not just those in the north-west – have been requested to face.

“It is a temporary measure, so that we can start to recover the court system and have cases heard. In the vast majority of Crown Court cases, people would far rather travel the short distance between Derry and Coleraine than to see their case not taken at all, which is the alternative.”

She added: “As with all rumours, I am not sure where the rumour that we are going to close Bishop Street courthouse started, but it seems to have got legs. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The justice minister gave an “absolute guarantee” that the courthouse would reopen “in its current state”, but added that a new courts hub could be created in the north-west in the longer term because it “may not be possible to upgrade the Bishop Street courthouse”.

“I have no doubt that my colleagues from Foyle will want to bend my ear at length about where that hub might be located,” she said.

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