By Eoin Kelleher
SOLICITORS and business people in Roscrea are set to strongly oppose the closure of Roscrea Courthouse, following news this week that the Courts Service has decided to amalgamate Roscrea and Borrisokane District Courts into Nenagh.
Closure of the local Courthouse - one of the oldest in the country - would mean defendants and their families having to travel all the way to Nenagh and back for cases, while thousands of euro would be lost to the local economy. Solicitors in the town are considering withdrawing their services should the threatened closure go ahead.
The news comes just months after it was announced that major refurbishment works would be carried out on the interior of the building which dates back to 1820.
In a letter to Mr Ronan Kennedy, Secretary of the Tipperary Solicitors Bar Association, the Courts Service states: “At its meeting on June 22nd, the Board of the Courts Service considered and approved a proposal to amalgamate the District Court Areas of Roscrea and Borrisokane with the District Court Area of Nenagh.” The decision was made to reduce costs. No date has yet been fixed for the amalgamation.
Solicitor Mr Brendan Hyland told the Tipperary Star that the decison would have a huge impact on the lives of defendants, many of whom have no means of travel. Some defendants suffer from psychiatric conditions, or may be using medication. “We feel it is grossly unfair, and a bureacratic decision taken without any consultation,” said Mr Hyland. “They have no way of getting to Nenagh. There’s no regular bus service.”
One of the reasons given for shutting down the Courthouse is that the building contains no holding cells for prisoners. However, the local garda station has adequate holding cells, said Mr Hyland. “There’s never been a holding cell there. That’s only an excuse. They’re not going to save any money out of this.”
“We’re going to object to this. From the point of view of a member of the public, this will be a huge inconvenience. There has been a Courthouse in Roscrea since the middle of the 19th century.” Legal practitioners in Roscrea are considering withdrawing their co-operation with the Courts Service. “It’s just a unilateral decision taken from on high, by people we don’t know and have never met,” said Mr Hyland.
Cllr Denis Ryan said the decision was very disappointing considering that other agencies had vacated the building to accommodate the Court Service. North Tipperary County Council had spent thousands of euro upgrading the building to the standards required.
Deputy Noel Coonan said that he has contacted the CEO of Court Services Board, Mr. Brendan Ryan, outlining his concerns that the Board “failed to give due care and consideration to the people of Roscrea and Borrisokane.”
Mr Ryan invited Deputy Coonan to make a submission on behalf of Roscrea and Borrisokane communities, which Deputy Coonan has done. This will be considered by the Board before implementing their decision to close both courthouses, according to Deputy Coonan’s office.
Roscrea’s legal community is set to meet to discuss the issue this week. “There will be a huge amount of money lost to the public in general,” added Mr Hyland. “It will make it extremely expensive, and impossible for some people, to attend the Court in Nenagh.”
In its letter to the Tipperary Bar Association, the Courts Service said it took account of the “proximity of Borrisokane and Roscrea to Nenagh, the frequency of Court Sittings and the annual case count and the accommodation available to Nenagh Courthouse”.
Roscrea is 32km from Nenagh with “an excellent road network”. Roscrea Courthouse is in “reasonably good condition” but it has no cells available for those in custoduy and there are no consulatation rooms. The 2010 case count for Roscrea was 1,019.
Borrisokane is “only 17km” from Nenagh, states the letter, and has a District Court sitting once a month. “While the courthouse is in reasonable condition, it has only very basic facilities with no cells available for those in custody. The 2010 case count for Borrisokane was 678.”
The Courts Service goes on to say it is operating “in a very difficult economic environment”. “A specific objective ... (is) to continue to maintain the delivery of frontline services and the maintenance of an appropriate and acceptable level of service to court users.
“In the current climate there is no prospect of being able to bring the facilities in Roscrea or Borrisokane up to the standard which users are entitled to expect,” the letter concludes.