Law Society warns court closures threaten access to justice
The Law Society of Scotland has warned that plans to close ten sheriff courts across Scotland threaten access to justice and will fail to deliver financial savings.
The Scottish Court Service (SCS) has today published firm proposals to close a number of sheriff courts, including Arbroath, Cupar, Dingwall, Haddington, and Stonehaven. This followed a public consultation in 2012.
Austin Lafferty, Law Society of Scotland President, said: "These court closures seriously threaten access to justice in many parts of Scotland and could lead to a long term decline in our cherished justice system. The changes will force many court users to travel further distances, at greater expense and with the result that access to justice is limited.
"Local courts are an integral part of communities across Scotland and offer the opportunity to see justice done.
"Vulnerable groups and people living in rural areas will be disproportionately affected by this decision; they may face excessive travel times and struggle to arrive in time for the start of a case. They may also have to share the same transport service with other parties to the case, such as witnesses and jurors.
"We recognise the financial pressures facing the Scottish Court Service. However, we are concerned this closure programme will fail to even achieve the very limited significant financial savings planned.
"Some of the remaining courts may find it difficult to cope with the level of additional business, which in turn could slow down proceedings and increase costs.
"We believe that the closure of courts on this scale will damage access to justice. We hope that Members of the Scottish Parliament will be able to stop these closures from happening."
Notes to editors:
Scottish Court Service has recommended that the following sheriff courts should close:
Arbroath, Cupar, Dingwall, Dornoch, Duns, Haddington, Kirkcudbright, Peebles, Rothesay, and Stonehaven. Read the full report on the Scottish Courts website.
Read the Law Society's response to the consultation Shaping Scotland's Court Services.
For further information: Please contact Val McEwan on 0131 226 8884/07825 206468 or Julia Brown on 0131 476 8204.
09 April 2013