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08 Dec 2021

Justice on its way back to Derry?

Northern Ireland Courts & Tribunal Service reaffirms commitment of returning jury cases to city once Covid restrictions are lifted

Justice on its way back to Derry?

Derry courthouse at Bishop Street has had its jury cases heard in Coleraine since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jury cases could soon be heard again at Derry's Bishop Street Courthouse once public health advice gives it the green light to do so.

Since the pandemic began, all cases involving a jury have been switched from Bishop Street to Coleraine, ensuring long round-trip journeys for staff, defendants, witnesses, jurors and solicitors alike.

Fears had grown that the move could be made permanent leaving the city of Derry without a nearby outlet for legal justice.

However, while Covid-19 restrictions still mean that cases will continue to be heard in Coleraine, a return of the courthouse back to Derry is firmly in the minds of the Northern Ireland Courts & Tribunal Service (NICTS).

An NICTS spokesperson said: “Derry Courthouse has continued to deliver courts and tribunals business during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“To ensure the health and safety of court users, and mitigate against viral transmission, Crown Court business has been temporarily relocated to Coleraine. Magistrates, Civil, and Family business continues to be heard at the venue.

“The NICTS continues to follow public health advice and guidance around social distancing and other mitigations.

“Once Jury trials can again be accommodated at Bishop Street in line with public health advice, the intention would be to restore this business to pre-pandemic schedules.

“Separately, as part of the NICTS Vison 2030 Modernisation Portfolio, a project is being progressed to look at options to upgrade or redevelop courts and tribunal facilities in the North West region.”

The view of returning justice to Derry was reaffirmed by an interview with the Irish Legal News given by Minister of Justice, Naomi Long.

In it she said: “Bishop Street Courthouse has provided a service to the north-west for many years and I want to assure them that it will continue to do so.

“My Department is currently engaged in a process to look at how we can upgrade the courts and tribunals system and, in particular, provide a suitable hub in the north-west as we look towards how we best serve the community into the future.

“I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of both NICTS staff and members of the judiciary who have gone above and beyond to ensure as much court business as possible could continue, and been flexible in their approach to delivering some business, including jury trials, in different locations that allowed us to deliver justice while putting public health first.

“This has been a particularly challenging time for those working in the justice system and legal professionals alike, including those working here in Derry and they are to be commended.”

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