STRABANE’S top police officer has joined growing opposition to plans to close the town’s courthouse.
Chief Inspector Andy Lemon backed calls for the retention of the court at a meeting of the local District Policing Partnership on Thursday.
He intimated that closing Strabane’s court operations in favour of Omagh would lead to fewer of his officers on the ground tackling crime.
Mr Lemon’s concerns surfaced at the same time that around 60 people were voicing their opposition to the closure plans at a separate public meeting in Strabane.
The meeting was the last of five public consultation gatherings held at under-fire courthouses across the North in recent weeks. Also facing the axe are facilities in Magherafelt, Limavady, Larne and Bangor.
The Court Service estimate that by shutting the five courts, annual savings in the region of £400,000 will be made. In Strabane alone, £141,000 stands to be saved, claim the Court Service.
Chairing the meeting was Head of Business Communications Jackie Durkan. She stressed that despite speculation that the closures were a “done deal”, no decisions had been taken and ultimately it would be up to the Justice Minister David Ford.
She added though that the Justice Department did have to make savings of £5m and that down-sizing its court estate would go some way towards that.