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Closure of Sheriff Courts a mistake claims Highlands & Islands MSP

20th September 2012

Highlands & Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has hit out after the Scottish Court Service today launched their consultation on court closures. The move means that 11 of Scotland's 49 Sheriff Courts and 5 Justice of the Peace Courts are threatened with closure.

Changes are also proposed for Scotland's High Courts with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen being the dedicated High court centres with designated sheriff courts in the east and west being courts where the High Court could sit if required (it is expected that two courts would provide most of the overflow capacity).

This is a change from the current system where there are permanent sittings of the High Court in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh and periodic sittings in eight sheriff courts in Dundee, Dumbarton, Dunfermline, Inverness, Kilmarnock, Livingston, Paisley and Perth.

Speaking earlier today, David Stewart said "It appears that the Government plan to make savings by closing up to 20 Sheriff Courts across the country. In the Highlands the Courts affected will be Dingwall and Dornoch. This means that the only three Courts left within the North Highlands will be at Inverness, Tain and Wick".

Mr Stewart continued " This is a very short sighted plan. Logic will lead you to understand that on one hand the Government may save money by closing a Court building, but they will not have made any real savings, because victims and other witnesses will have to travel further and longer to attend Court, so there will be a dramatic rise in incidental expense claims by such people.

Attending Court is a daunting experience at any time, but making vulnerable victims and witnesses, travel much greater distances than they already have to , is ludicrous. Yes, there will be savings in building and associated costs, but any real savings will be lost to the increased expenses having to be claimed by all who have to travel much further to attend Court. This is not to mention increased costs for the extra distance accused persons will have to be escorted. There will also be associated knock on costs to the police service where officers need to appear as witnesses - it will mean higher costs and less bobbies on the beat.
The Government need to have a rethink of this plan, carry out a proper consultation exercise and apply common sense and logic to such plans before they implement them"

See the consultation and response papers at
www.scotcourts.gov.uk/consultations/index.asp

 

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