Committee plan inquiry into court closures

Sheriff Court, Duns
Sheriff Court, Duns

The Justice Committee at the Scottish Parliament is to hold an inquiry into the court closures that will see Duns Sheriff Court cease to operate.

It comes after the Scottish Court Service proposed a restructuring of court services in Scotland, which has since been backed by the SNP Government.

Members of the Justice Committee have decided to take evidence on the potential impact of the reforms, and whether they will restrict access to the justice system or overburden the courts that are remaining open.

Berwickshire MSP John Lamont, who is a member of the Justice Committee, has backed the inquiry.

He commented: “These reforms to our court system will be the biggest restructuring that we have seen in a long time, and will halve the number of courts we have here in the Borders.

“They have already attracted a lot of criticism, with 95% of respondents to the consultation opposing them.

“That is why as a member of the Scottish Government’s Justice Committee I fully supported this inquiry. It is only right that we properly analyse the effect that these closures will have on our justice system, and only yesterday we heard evidence that undermines a lot of what the government has been saying.

“Their suggestion for a greater use of video links has already been questioned, along with worries that the closures will limit access to our justice system.

“There are also concerns that the courts that remain open will be overburdened, with Jedburgh and Selkirk Sheriff Courts having to take over the work of Duns and Peebles.”

“This inquiry is a welcome step towards ensuring that the impact of these reforms is known before any closures take place.

“I would encourage anyone who uses our courts to write to the convenor of the committee and offer their point of view on just how damaging these closures could be.”