Justice Minister Naomi Long has paid tribute to those who are working together to ensure the delivery of justice and create safer communities in the north-west.
Minister Long praised the dedication of those working within the justice system as she visited Bishop Street Courthouse, where she heard from staff and members of the judiciary about the challenges being overcome to facilitate court business throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Naomi Long said: “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-Londonderry, and they are to be commended.
"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. It has not been possible to hold jury trials here during the Covid-19 pandemic in a manner that complies with public health guidance and social distancing requirements. I recognise the challenges that delivering justice in a way that meets the needs of the people it serves within a listed building presents. 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.”
Minister Long also undertook a series of engagements to hear first-hand about collaboration between community groups and justice partners to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Visiting Top of the Hill Community Centre, Minister Long met with local councillors and youth leaders from the centre as well as representatives from Tullyally Community Centre and Waterside neighbourhood Project to hear how ongoing collaboration on youth projects in the area was helping to keep young people engaged in positive activities in their communities.
She was also briefed on the Navigator/Connect project, as well as the wider work being done by the PSNI and Education Authority in conjunction with Altnagelvin A&E to provide support to vulnerable people.
Naomi Long said: “I am delighted to visit the north-west today and hear first-hand about how justice organisations are working on the ground within the community. Both statutory and voluntary partners play a vital role in ensuring our streets are safer places and the most vulnerable in our communities are supported by working closely together. I want to pay tribute to the people I have met today who work day and daily to deliver the services on the ground that make a real difference to the lives of the people they come into contact with.”
WATCH: Minister Long visits Bishop Street Courthouse https://youtu.be/E-poAXzg50g
Notes to editors:
- Photo caption: Justice Minister Naomi Long is pictured with Tracey McCloskey; Regional Courts Business Manager, Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS).
- At the start of the coronavirus emergency, the need to ensure that court buildings were safe for staff, judiciary and court users meant that jury-led Crown Court trials across Northern Ireland were suspended from late March 2020 to August 2020. Following a series of COVID-19 risk assessments, the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service undertook a programme of works on courthouses to ensure that they complied with Public Health Agency (PHA) guidelines on managing the risks of COVID-19. This allowed for the phased reopening of most courthouses. However, several courthouses, including Bishop Street, are listed buildings. Their layout means that it is simply not possible to accommodate 12 jurors in the courtroom while complying with PHA guidance on social distancing. Consequently, when jury trials recommenced, Crown Court business from Bishop Street had to be moved to Coleraine; where it could be accommodated within the guidelines. Magistrates, civil and family court business, which does not require a jury, continue to be heard in Bishop Street.
- The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service have recently published a Modernisation Vision statement, which sets out the aims and objectives of their programme for modernisation and the operational areas under consideration. Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service – Modernisation Vision | Department of Justice (justice-ni.gov.uk)
- Media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Follow the department on Twitter @Justice_NI
- The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
- Adult and Youth Reoffending in Northern Ireland Cohort 2018/19 Published Today 25 November 2021
- Long to launch public consultation on ‘Charlotte’s Law’ 22 November 2021
- Long: The needs of victims must be at the centre of the justice system 11 November 2021
- Justice Minister pays tribute to the work of Forensic Science Northern Ireland 10 November 2021