Duns Court closure is ‘disastrous’

DUNS SHERIFF COURT AND JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURTIN DUNS, SCOTTISH BORDERS
DUNS SHERIFF COURT AND JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURTIN DUNS, SCOTTISH BORDERS

Local MSP John Lamont has raised doubts over the planned transfer of powers from Duns Court to Jedburgh in the new year.

A Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Government showed the percentage of court cases in Scotland dealt with within the 26 week target has fallen.

The figures show that Jedburgh Sheriff Court dealt with 79% of cases within the target in 2008/09, but that this fell to 75% in 2013/14. Since then the number of cases dealt with within 26 weeks plunged to 57% in May 2014 and 63% in June 2014, the latest figure provided.

This is despite Jedburgh dealing with fewer cases. In 2013, 318 summary cases were heard at Jedburgh, compared to 525 in 2008.

Mr Lamont said: “Jedburgh Sheriff Court is struggling to cope due to under-resourcing. He added: “This calls into question the decision to close Duns court and transfer its business to Jedburgh in January 2015.”

The closure of Duns Court was announced last year despite strong opposition from Mr Lamont, who argued it would harm access to justice and lead to a growing backlog of cases across the Borders.

He went on:“These figures show the extent of delays to justice. In the Borders, Jedburgh seems to be struggling to cope, even though they are dealing with fewer cases. Delays to justice are a disservice to victims of crime, but when the accused is found to be innocent, they are also a waste of money.

“Just a few months before the planned closure of Duns Court, the court meant to take on extra business is failing to meet its target in nearly 40% of cases. It is not too late for the Scottish Government to reverse the disastrous decision.”