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Legal profession dismayed by ‘eviction’ from Castlecourt Courthouse

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LACK ON CONSIDERATION Barrister Diarmuid Connolly has been critical of the Court Services decision to move Mayo criminal trials to Galway.

Solicitors and barristers criticise decision to move criminal trials to Galway

Anton McNulty

The legal profession in Mayo have this week claimed they have been ‘evicted from their courthouse’ following the decision by the Court Service to move criminal trials from Castlebar Courthouse to Galway this October.
Solicitors and barristers practising in Mayo were informed on Wednesday by Judge Rory McCabe that the last two weeks of the four-week sitting of Castlebar Circuit Court in October will move to Galway, where jury trials will be heard.
No criminal jury trials have been heard in Mayo since the outbreak of Covid-19 but four trials had been scheduled for hearing in October. However, the Central Criminal Court intend to use the facilities in Castlebar Courthouse to hear their trials in the autumn and as a result, Mayo trials are to be moved to Galway.
The decision has been criticised by the legal profession in Mayo, who stated they were not consulted prior to the announcement and they are ‘utterly dismayed’ by the decision.
Speaking on behalf of the legal practitioners in Mayo at the beginning of Thursday’s sitting of Castlebar Circuit Court, barrister Diarmuid Connolly said the Court Service’s decision will ‘effectively suspend the administration of justice in the County of Mayo for five months, commencing in September’.
“The impact of this decision on civil and family law matters in both the circuit court and district court has not been clarified. It is difficult to see how those courts can continue their work with the central sitting in this building,” Mr Connolly said.
No consultation
“The decision has been made without any consultation whatsoever with the very people who are affected the most. If they haven’t talked to us one can assume they haven’t talked to others.
“This signifies a lack of consideration for members of the solicitor and barrister profession who earn their livelihood in Mayo. It is not clear if this decision is legally sound and constitutionally permissible.
“The timing of the decision is utterly cynical as it comes the day before the end of the legal year. This effectively rules out any input from the stakeholders, it prevents the stakeholders from raising the matter with their professional bodies. It is difficult to see how district and circuit court work can be done in this building from September. This will inevitably result in severe delays and inconvenience to citizens seeking to exercise their constitutional right of access to the courts. Such a delay is unconscionable.”
Mr Connolly added that the decision to relocate to Galway will discommode large numbers of witnesses, victims, their supporters, Gardaí, registrars and the legal profession by obliging them to travel to Galway. He added it also means that the local economy will also lose out from the benefits of the court sittings in Castlebar.
“The proposed move will have a devastating effect on local business. This represents a further impediment to persons who seek to earn a livelihood and reside in rural Ireland.
“There is a certain irony standing here 100 yards from the place where the Land League was set up that we should find the citizens of Mayo being evicted from their own courthouse. This decision has to be reversed or at least revisited to assess alternative venues in Mayo,” he concluded.

‘Calamitous’
Mr Gary Mulchrone, solicitor, echoed Mr Connolly’s comments describing the courts service’s decision as ‘calamitous’ and done without any consultation. He explained that if the Central Criminal Court located to Castlebar, then the district court sittings will have to take place in a smaller courtroom which under social distancing guidelines will only be able to hold ten people. He said that for the last four months the legal profession in Mayo have ‘kept the wheels of justice going’ and they now found the current situation unacceptable.
Judge McCabe said that the legal practitioners were not the only ones who were dismayed by the lack of consultation and he will bring their concerns to the attention of the President of the Circuit Court.