THE official Scottish Borders Council response to the Scottish Court Service consultation on the future court structure, strongly opposing the proposals set down, will be considered at a full council meeting today, Thursday, November 22.
As part of the consultation paper the SCS proposes to close the Sheriff and Justice of Peace courts at Duns and Peebles, and transfer the business into the neighbouring Sheriff Court districts of Jedburgh and Edinburgh respectively.
Among SBC’s many concerns regarding the proposals as they currently stand are the greater travel distances for those attending the court from the Scottish Borders and the loss of the accused person’s historic privilege of being tried by his or her peers from the community where the alleged offence occurred.
Executive member for corporate improvement and HR, Councillor Michael Cook explained: “We have huge concerns about the potential impact of these proposals on the people of the Borders. In particular, we question how these proposals will continue to meet the reasonable needs of the people of the Borders to continue to be able to enjoy fair access to local justice.
“For the people living in the Eyemouth area for example, it would not be possible for them to travel to court and home on the same day. That’s a clear breach of principles laid down by the Judicial Office for Scotland.”
Fellow Berwickshire councillor, John Greenwell has similar concerns, adding: “I believe that this cost cutting exercise will only lead to hardship for all Berwickshire residents wishing to use the court for whatever reason especially those falling foul of the law, it could lead to more criminal charges for missing their court appearances because of financial reasons(not being able to afford the bus fare) or late buses or in some cases just not being bothered to travel.”