Solicitors in West Cork have been granted leave to bring a judicial review against the proposed closure of the courthouse in Skibbereen.
The West Cork Bar Association has been granted leave by the High Court to seek the judicial review against the Courts Service.
There was much anger amongst solicitors in the region when the Courts Service made the decision on October 21 to close the court, and they promised to take any action they could to have it overturned.
The West Cork District Court area extends from Kinsale westwards as far as Castletownbere.
In recent years, there has already been seven local courts closed by the Courts Service in the West Cork area, the most recent being Kinsale District Court which sat for the last time on December 19.
The West Cork Bar Association issued a statement yesterday saying solicitors were concerned court closures were seriously eroding access to justice for people living in the region.
The organisation said that if more closures were allowed to proceed, the people of West Cork would face travelling long distances to Cork City to deal with district court matters, when under the Constitution, the State has to provide courts of local and limited jurisdiction.
Solicitors pointed out that vulnerable citizens, who require the urgent assistance of the district court, such as in a domestic violence situation, will find it much more difficult to access the help and protection they need.
The statement added that in advance of initiating the court proceedings, the association considered the matter fully and comprehensively and this course of action was not taken lightly.
When the Skibbereen closure was first mooted, the association said it engaged fully with the Courts Service in the consultation process, making two separate submissions. Solicitors said it was flagged to the Courts Service that a stand would be made against further court closures in West Cork given the previous closures to date.
It costs around €8,000 per year to keep a court open and the association said while this might be saved by the Courts Service, it will end up costing citizens and the State far more.
The group said considerable additional costs would be borne by other State agencies such as An Garda Siochána and the HSE due to increased travelling.
“Of course, all of this is being done in the backdrop of a proposed €25m project to build a new courts complex at Anglesea St, Cork, which it is suggested in some quarters is unnecessary and unwanted,” the statement added.
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