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Westport Court must not be closed – Staunton

Westport court must not be closed down – Staunton

Áine Ryan

WESTPORT Court must not be closed under proposed rationalisations by the Court Services. That is the view of a Fine Gael Town Councillor, Myles Staunton, who also practises as a solicitor in the town. He has tabled a motion for this week’s monthly Town Council meeting stating: “Westport Town Council expresses its concern and objection to the Court Service’s proposed closure of Westport Courthouse, which is currently under consideration.”
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Cllr Staunton said: “Currently a number of court venues, including Westport Courthouse, are being considered for closure subject to a detailed assessment. To be frank, I find it hard to believe that a town the size of Westport is being considered. The Courts Service needs to realise also that although Westprt has a population of about 5,500, this population can almost treble during the summer months, which inevitably leads to more court activity.”   
He argues that any ‘closure would not only have a detrimental affect on the administration of justice of Westport cases’ but will also have an economic impact on local businesses.
“Westport courthouse has served the community well for many years and is an important part of the community. I have no doubt when you have a court in a town it makes it easier for the gardaí to monitor, and bring to justice those who commit offences. On a practical level the removal of the court would mean a significant inconvenience for not only those within the legal system but also for witnesses and members of the public who need to attend the court,” he continued.
The Mayo News recently revealed that the final decision on the possible closure of four Mayo courthouses – Achill, Swinford, Ballyhaunis and Westport – would be made on an individual basis by the Court Services, pending the conclusion of individual business cases. This follows a nationwide review of court venues. A Court services spokesman told The Mayo News then that the final decision in relation to the closure of any venue would be a matter for the board of the Courts Service, after a consultation process, which includes inputs from local judiciary, staff, legal practitioners and other court users. 
The criteria for choosing venues to be considered for closure are case count, physical condition, ownership, proximity to an alternative venue, staff at location, cells, accessibility and technical facilities.
Speaking at the time of the announcement, Fianna Fáil TD, Dara Calleary, a former Justice spokesman, said: “It is unacceptable that a county the size of Mayo will have just three venues and it seems there has been no view taken of the physical disparity of the county. This will make it harder for people to defend themselves and see that justice is administrated in a fair spirit. These decisions seem to have been taken by people in Dublin looking at a route planner and not by people who have driven the roads in the county and think it will not convenience people in Achill from going to Belmullet or Castlebar.”
However, Fine Gael TD, John O’Mahony stressed the fact that the review did not mean automatic closure and it was up to communities to highlight the importance of their individual courthouses.

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