Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (378)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

378. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality having regard to the catchment area currently serviced by Birr District Court in County Offaly and the court lists that are heard there at each District Court sittings that every consideration will be given to its continued operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11186/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy may be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and have been informed that the Courts Service has been reviewing all aspects of its organisational and operational structures throughout the country with the specific objective of ensuring that the Service can continue to maintain the delivery of front line court services and an appropriate level of service to court users. I understand that no court venue has been singled out for or indeed exempted from the review and that Birr courthouse has been identified as a venue to be considered for closure subject to a detailed assessment and the preparation of a business case.

In this context the Courts Service has established a general framework within which such venues are being assessed taking into account a range of criteria such as caseload, proximity to an alternative venue, physical condition of the building, availability of cells etc. The likely impact on other Justice agencies, such as An Garda Síochána and the Irish Prison Service, is also taken into account. The review identified a range of venues nationwide which, based on the criteria applied, could be considered for closure subject to a detailed assessment and the preparation of a business case in respect of each identified venue which has now commenced. However, the Courts Service has assured me that no decision in relation to the future of Birr Courthouse will be taken without prior consultation with local interested parties and court users. This consultation has commenced and the views received will be taken into account in the decision making process which will be a matter for the Courts Service Board.