Court closures a move against accessibility: Reilly
Sinn Féin’s Senator Kathryn Reilly today raised the issue of review of the district courts being carried out by the Courts’ Service.
She asked if there was not a complete disconnect between the courts’ service and the administration of justice in terms of the review, and courts earmarked for closure.
Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Reilly said:
“The Courts’ Service is embarking on a detailed evaluation of court venues, putting the future of many district courts in doubt.
“When you consider its potential effect on rural communities: is there a complete disconnect between the Courts’ Service and the administration of justice in terms of the review and they courts earmarked for closure.
“I would be concerned that closing small and rural courts, without providing adequate alternative services, is a move against accessibility. Common issues and complaints are already emerging from previous closures, such as the often significant expense and difficulty of travelling from home to the nearest court.
“Assuming someone has a car, the cost of petrol over very long distances is prohibitive. In many places, public transport is severely limited, and does not align with court opening hours. Individuals needing to appear in court may have to cover accommodation and food costs, and may also miss out on a day or more of work and therefore wages.
“The direct consequence is that many defendants do not show up for appearances, causing adjournments and expensive delays.
“In Cavan, if the garda stations in both Ballyconnell and Virginia are closed, there will be a logistical expense involved in getting gardaí from their local stations to Cavan. Coupled with this you will also be taking them away from the communities in which they are based for longer periods of time at a serious potential cost to community safety.
“Reducing access through closure of courts is not the best way to improve justice outcomes for our vulnerable and isolated communities. Access to courts is access to justice in a very concrete sense. The vulnerable communities the courts serve and involve need access to those courts in order to have confidence in them.
“It is important that those who have to travel to courts from rural areas have access to justice and are able to get there.”