The Minister for Justice, Claire Sugden has been urged to reverse the decision by her predecessor to designate Enniskillen courthouse as a hearing centre.
This week marks one year since it was confirmed that Enniskillen courthouse would not be axed but instead given a partial reprieve.
Former Justice Minister David Ford had proposed that Enniskillen along with seven other “underused” courthouses across the North close as a way to save money in his department’s budget, cut by £75m.
Six courthouses – Armagh, Ballymena, Limavady, Lisburn, Magherafelt and Strabane – were to close but Enniskillen and Newtownards were reprieved.
Since August 1st, Enniskillen is open only on the two or three days a week when there is a court sitting and otherwise is closed outside of these times. The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) has already stated that there have been no jobs lost as a result of the change with four court staff posts transferred from Enniskillen to Omagh courthouse.
Last October Ms Sugden reprieved other courthouse closures in provincial towns such as Armagh and Strabane. She also revealed that savings resulting from Enniskillen’s re-designation would be around £26,000 a year due to “reduced security and other contracted services”. She added that the “additional flexibility” from having additional staff located in Omagh two days a week was the main benefit of the change as it would allow “more effective pooling of resources to carry out administrative duties”.
Members of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council wrote to the Minister last month requesting a reversal of the decision in respect of Enniskillen Courthouse in light of the reduction of jobs from the district such as HM Revenue and Customs. In her response, Ms Sugden would not be drawn on a change in current arrangement but stated: “As I have previously advised there have been no job losses within NICTS resulting from this change in courthouse status. I am unable to provide any information on contracted services as they are independently managed under government contracts however if you are in a position to provide more specific data regarding job losses directly resulting from this decision you may wish to provide this to NICTS for further information.”
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