Respected Borders sheriff retires from the bench

After 13 years of dispensing justice in Borders courts, Sheriff Kevin Drummond has retired from the bench.

By Hilary Mactaggart
Monday, 4th November 2013, 9:31 am
Sheriff Kevin Drummond
Sheriff Kevin Drummond

His “fair and consistent” sentencing has earned him significant respect across the judicial system.

“He has always shown great attention to detail, fairness and courtesy,” said Dean of the Faculty of Solicitors in Roxburgh, Alison Marshall, “and we all wish him well in his retirement.”

Selkirk Sheriff clerk Margaret McCabe echoed those sentiments, adding, “He will be an extremely hard act to follow.

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Sheriff Kevin Drummond

“Not only is he kind and approachable, but has one of the finest legal brains, and we are grateful to have had the benefit of that knowledge and experience.”

Bizarrely, a football injury prompted Sheriff Drummond’s first step into the legal profession when, during his convalescence, he opted to leave London for a job with the Inland Revenue in Edinburgh.

He began practising law after completing a degree at Edinburgh University.

“I decided I didn’t like it and went to the Bar in 1974,” he explained.

He took up his post in the Borders, as resident sheriff for Duns, Jedburgh and Selkirk in 2000, after two-and-a-half years on the bench in Glasgow.

“I was asked, before I took up office, if I was prepared to cover Peebles because at that time there was an ambition to get all the Borders courts under one mantle.”

Business demands led to Sheriff Drummond being unable to preside over proofs or jury trials, with a succession of “floating” sheriffs required.On-going court re-organisation saw him based in Selkirk from 2010.

Sheriff Drummond was one of the main adversaries to proposed court closures in the region.

“I worked hard to preserve the status quo,” he said, “for the simple reason that I’m a firm believer in local justice.

“You have to recognise that times change, but I remain concerned for the administration,” he added. The concentration of jury trials within 16 centres and the High Court circuit being “squeezed” into Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen has been a focus of debate.

“I did the famous Cordner trial in the High court in Jedburgh, and Duns was the last sheriff court I ever appeared in as a solicitor before I went to the Bar,” he continued.

“The accused was called Swan and I appeared before Sheriff Paterson, and told him that it was my swansong,” he joked.

Sheriff Drummond concedes that during his time on the bench changes in the judicial system have been “gradual but substantial.”

Proposals to remove the need for corroboration are of particular concern to him.

“It is part of the substance of our law and is the single most important safeguard in our system against conviction of the innocent,” he explains.

“In my opinion, we abandon it at grave risk to every level of our system of prosecution of crime.”

His hard-hitting approach to crime involving the Emergency Workers’ Act, has earned praise from hospital staff.

“I have had letters thanking me for the efforts I’ve made to reduce the incidence of violence and aggression in hospitals,” he said.

“It is a terrible thing that hospitals have to have police units and security staff in them.”

Research shows that some 80 per cent of admissions to Borders General Hospital over a weekend are alcohol related.

General drunken behaviour by youngsters is also worrying, with the sheriff’s notebook revealing a similar statistic over a six-month period.

“It was that realisation which caused me to take a different approach to the problems we were seeing in the court,” he explained.

“Up to that time, there was a general thought that drugs were the problem, but alcohol is a much more serious problem.”

He recognises the community’s part through shopkeepers, licence holders, and police, in tackling the issue.

“There seems to be a lot more domestic drinking – people getting tanked up before they go out,” he said.

Sheriff Drummond said it was also “worrying” to see the “next generation” of young offenders coming through the system.

“The number of repeat offenders in the Borders is actually small on a national basis,” he continued. “The resources allocated to this are enormous,” he added.

Sheriff Drummond emphasises the importance of justice being local.

“Bigger courts may see the same people a couple of times a year, but I see them day in and day out,” he said, “so you are able to adopt a consistent line.

“One of the most satisfying parts of this job is that you do feel part of the community.

“You don’t get that in the cities, and it is a bad thing if we lose that,” he added.

Actively involved in wildlife matters, he continues, “It is desirable in a rural area like this that there should be a consciousness of the environment.”

A keen fisherman both at home and abroad, Sheriff Drummond is also a respected cartoonist, with his work recognised in a variety of publications across the country.

Much in demand as a public speaker, he is also an enthusiastic “amateur motor mechanic”.

He says his days on the bench rarely passed without a “light-hearted moment” and he will miss the companionship of the court community.

It is a community which holds him in high regard.

Reflecting on the future, he concludes, “I don’t have endings, I only have beginnings, and what this is the beginning of, I don’t know.”

Sheriff Drummond will be replaced by Sheriff Peter Paterson, who previously sat in Arbroath.