Councillor calls for action on courts as MSP makes assurances

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AS Berwickshire Councillor Trevor Jones calls on Scottish Borders Council to urge the Government to step in and stop the axe coming down on Duns Sheriff Court, Christine Grahame MSP claims she’s had assurances that the fate of the court and others across Scotland has yet to be rubber stamped.

Concerns have been raised over the future of the court after it appeared on a list of buildings earmarked for closure in a leaked document from the Scottish Courts Service.

And in his motion put forward at a council meeting today (Thursday), Councillor Jones will ask that “SBC deplores the proposal to close Duns Sheriff Court and calls upon the Scottish Government to intervene urgently to secure the future of this historic court, ensuring access to justice for the people of Berwickshire and sustaining local legal advice and representation.”

Councillor Kenneth Gunn has called for similar action in respect of Selkirk Sheriff Court, however Christine Grahame MSP told ‘The Berwickshire News’ she has been assured by First Minister Alex Salmond that no decisions will be taken to close sheriff courts in Scotland without local consultation, and that any such move will require parliamentary approval.

There has been some speculation in recent weeks that sheriff courts across the country will be forced to shut in a bid to cut the cost of delivering legal services.

After being contacted by a concerned Peebles Community Council, Ms Grahame asked Mr Salmond to confirm that the Lord President Lord Hamilton will consider the costs of travel and practicalities for witnesses, police and sheriffs of any redesign of access to justice, particularly in rural areas.

In reply, the First Minister told Ms Grahame that while he did not wish to be drawn on the future of individual courts, he could well understand why she would wish to represent the interests of her constituency, adding that access to justice was critical for the courts system.

Ms Grahame added: “There is a long way to go before decisions are made and there will be ample time for people to make their views known.”