Justice Minister Naomi Long has welcomed the recommissioning of Banbridge Courthouse after an absence of five years.
The courthouse, which had been out of use since 2016, has undergone a £140,000 refurbishment as part of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service’s (NICTS) effort to increase capacity for courts and tribunals cases.
This allows faster recovery from delays in progressing court business caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The courthouse, which dates back to the 19th Century, has started holding hearings in recent weeks following its renovation.
During a visit to Banbridge courthouse, Minister Long said: “Right throughout Covid-19 lockdown, my officials in NICTS have been working hard with the judiciary and partners across the justice family to ensure that courts and tribunals business can take place safely.
“Thanks to the use of technology, physical, hybrid and remote hearings have been held and courthouses across Northern Ireland have also undergone significant physical adaptations to ensure jury trials and other courts and tribunals hearings can take place safely.
“Not only have we been able to create a Nightingale facility to support courts and tribunals business at the ICC Belfast but we have also been able to look to our own estate and recommission this courthouse.
“In a short period of time, this dormant building has been transformed into a valuable additional space which is now being used to ensure that we are able to deliver additional volumes of court business for citizens.
“This is a great use of a NICTS asset. It’s great to see it coming back into use and a boost to Banbridge.”
The refurbished courthouse can be used for a range of business. The Appeals Service is planning to list benefits appeals in the venue from September 2021.
Three legacy inquest hearings into killings during the Troubles and other inquests are also due to be heard in the courthouse in the months ahead.
The refurbishment allowed the creation of a multi-functional hearing room, and other works including the redecoration of the interior, installation of sound proofing and relocatable courtroom furniture, installation of courtroom technology with audio, video and digital audio recording facilities, wifi throughout the courthouse, a large screen for families and interested parties to view proceedings, docking points, phones and printers in the courthouse’s office accommodation, cleaning of the exterior, removing overgrown weeds, moss and disinfecting all external areas, and the building of a new automated entrance to the building.