Claim that Fermoy courthouse is under-utilised
Claims that the courthouse in Fermoy is seriously under-utlised have been made by two local councillors. They say the building, which was completely refurbished as part of the town hall redevelopment six years ago which cost €7.2m in total, often lies empty.
Cllrs Noel McCarthy and Tadhg O’Donovan have tabled motions for the meetings next week of the northern area committee of Cork County Council and Fermoy Town Council calling on the Minister for Justice to review its use with a view to having it used more extensively.
Speaking about the matter this week Cllr McCarthy pointed out that the District Court is held there five times a month while the Circuit Court sits for approximately nine days in the year. It’s used occasionally for emergency or special sittings of the district court. Outside of that, he said, the facilities which were established there as part of the redevelopment of the municipal offices, are largely unoccupied.
He and Cllr O’Donovan now want to make a case for the building to be used for employment appeal tribunal cases, for An Bord Pleanala oral hearings, social welfare appeals, probation service assessment meetings and private arbitration proceedings.
They say that some such proceedings are presently held in rooms hired in the local hotel or elsewhere, adding extra expense on the State. They’d also like to see enquiries made to determine if some family law circuit court cases could be dealt with in Fermoy on days when the courthouse isn’t otherwise being used.
Apart from affording more privacy, it would have the added advantage of taking the family law list out of the often very heavy ordinary court list, freeing up more time for both. Both councillors also believe that having the courthouse used for other purposes would have a spin-off value as it would bring extra people into the town from outside areas.
It’s understood there is no legal impediment to the courthouse being used for other purposes.
When contacted by The Avondhu about the matter, a spokesperson for the Courts Service indicated that they’d be amenable to the court having wider use.
“The Courts Service are welcoming of suitable proposals to increase use of the courthouses, where capacity exists. Indeed we already have in place a policy and protocol to encourage and organise such matters in courts when not in use for courts business. We specifically encourage applications from other state agencies who wish to use court venues for appropriate public business,” he said.
He gave as an example the use of courts by Coroners. “Public bodies who would wish to avail of the use of Fermoy courthouse should apply to our regional office in Cork” he advised.
He went on to say that decisions on locations and the timing of court sittings are largely made on the basis of where and when matters arise, with the principle being that court matters are held in the nearest suitable court venue.
“Any proposals for extra sittings would need to be justified by the levels of business in a particular area rather than simply transferring business from another area,” he concluded.