Duns Sheriff Court on closure list

DUNS Sheriff Court is among a list of 11 courts earmarked for closure by the Scottish Court Service.

The plans were revealed in a the court service’s consultation document ‘Shaping Scotland’s Court Services’, which proposes to transfer business from Duns to Jedburgh.

And Duns Sheriff Court isn’t the only one in the Borders to be targeted. Peebles is also on the closure list.

In the consultation document the court service say that any court which sits an average of two days a week or less and hears less than 200 new criminal cases and 300 new civil cases a year ‘becomes disproportionate and inefficient to maintain’.

And Duns falls into this category with only 132 new criminal and 204 new civil cases heard in 2011/12. Peebles had even less with 117 and 173 respectively.

Eric McQueen, SCS executive director, said a court structure was needed that was accessible for people and with the services that the public would expect.

He said: “With greater levels of specialisation expected to result from the justice reforms, we anticipate the most serious types of business being heard in fewer locations.

“Many of our court buildings were built in Victorian times and are both expensive to maintain and difficult to adapt.”

One person who doesn’t want to see either Duns or Peebles close is MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, John Lamont who has urged the court service to reconsider.

He told ‘The Berwickshire News’: “These proposals would represent a huge blow to the court system we have here in the Borders. The presence of local courts in rural areas such as ours can actually save both time and money, and it is therefore puzzling that the Scottish Court Service believes closing these courts is the right thing to do.

“Such action would undoubtedly have a negative impact on the local community in Berwickshire, with many residents being forced to travel far further to gain access to the justice system. This is in addition to the extra pressure that would be exerted on Jedburgh Sheriff Court which would have to deal with the backlog of cases created.

“These proposals will have far reaching consequences in the Borders and I sincerely hope that the SCS reconsider their plans. Not only are they taking away local access to our justice system for many people, they will severely hamper our ability to process criminal and civil cases.”

The Law Society of Scotland has also warned of the long term impact of court closure proposals, which it says will threaten access to justice for communities across Scotland, particularly those in rural areas.

Austin Lafferty, Law Society of Scotland president, said: “Public spending is under increasing pressure and we fully understand the need for the court service, like all parts of the public sector, to reduce operating costs and save money. However, we don’t believe that the measures proposed will necessarily achieve that – and could well lead to a long term decline in access to our justice system.

“Local courts have an important role within their communities and it is absolutely essential that access to justice remains the core consideration throughout this consultation process.

“It’s important that everyone involved in the justice system, including members of the public, can contribute to this debate.