Closing Tipperary and Carrick-on-Suir courthouses would result in little savings to the State and may even cost it more due to increased travel and overtime costs for Garda, local authority, HSE and Probation Service staff, the Tipperary Solicitors Bar Association has warned.
The TSBA says the review of Co. Tipperary’s courts operations has caused alarm to all users of courts services in the county and it’s the only county in the country to be singled out for this reassessment.
The Association is preparing a detailed submission to the Courts Service highlighting the effect the closures of court sittings in Carrick-on-Suir and Tipperary Town would have on the public and on other court users.
In a press statement, the TSBA pointed out that any proposed closures would mean other State agencies such as the Gardaí, local authorities, the HSE and Probation Service will have to spend more in travel cand overtime for its staff who work at Carrick and Tipperary court sittings. There would also be extra travel costs incurred on members of the public attending these courts.
“While it is a matter of concern, that the budget for the Courts Service has been slashed by over 40%, in the last number of years, the savings to the Courts Service, in closing Courthouses and moving staff to other areas, results in an increase in cost to all taxpayers much more than the savings to the Court Service budget,” said the TSBA.
The Association argues the Courts Service would achieve only minimal savings by closing Carrick-on-Suir Courthouse, which was owned by the Courts Service and underwent more than €260,000.00 in repairs and upgrading in 2006/2007.
The only savings would be travel expenses for the Court Clerk and the heating and light for the days the Court is held there.
“If the court sittings are transferred to Clonmel there would be substantial costs in overtime and travel for 15 gardaí and 2 sergeants, the cost of leaving the town of Carrick-on-Suir unattended during court days when the Gardaí will be in Clonmel, the extra cost to citizens in travelling to Clonmel and making arrangements in respect of childcare etc. and the cost to the HSE and Probation Service of further travel and time for their employees,” the TSBA statement pointed out.
In relation to Tipperary, the TSBA said the Courts Service have indicated they do not have sufficient funds to repair the town’s courthouse, which has been closed for a number of years with court sittings moved to the Excel Centre.
“A Private Capital Funding Scheme was offered to the Courts Service in 2006, which would have resulted in the Courthouse being repaired and operating at present. However, this was declined by the Courts Service.
“More recently, suitable alternative government buildings in Tipperary Town, which are now vacant, have been identified to the Courts Service as replacement courthouses but these have not been considered,” the TSBA spokesperson continued.
The TSBA is also calling for the re-opening of Tipperary’s Probate Service office that closed in Clonmel in September 2013. This service dealt with the administration of Wills and Estates, allowing for the release of funds to next of kin and beneficiaries of deceased persons and allowing inheritance and transfers of property to be completed.
And it is campaigning against any cut backs to the staffing of the Courts Service office in Nenagh.
The TSBA has the full support of the Law Society of Ireland for its campaign.
The Law Society has urged the Courts Service to end all future Court and Courts Service closures.