Law Society calls for further costs analysis before court cuts
The Law Society of Scotland has called for further discussion on court closures today, Tuesday, 4 June.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, Lord Gill and Eric McQueen, Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service, gave evidence on the issue to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee today.
The Law Society, which has consistently opposed the scale of proposed closures, has said the plans are fundamentally at odds with the Scottish Government's stated commitment to access to justice.
Bruce Beveridge, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "It's clear that many solicitors and others remain opposed to plans to close ten sheriff courts and seven justice of the peace courts and believe that it will have a significant and adverse impact on access to justice in Scotland.
"Local courts are an integral part of communities across Scotland. A local court offers the opportunity to see justice done and to bridge the gap between crime in local communities and its detection and resolution. In addition they make a significant contribution to the economic activity in their local communities and we're not convinced that this has been factored in. It is really important that the role that the public sector plays in a local community, particularly in rural Scotland where most of these closures are planned, is fully recognised. We think there needs to further discussion with other public sector bodies and services to establish the contribution they make and if this has been taken into account in the cost analysis and even look at the potential of extending the use of the court premises."
Beveridge added: "Of course we recognise the financial pressures facing the Scottish Court Service and understand that improvements must be sought. We are also largely in favour of the proposals on wider court reform, however, we remain concerned that this closure programme will fail to achieve significant financial savings in the long-term and could actually be counter productive. For example, the plans to remove the vast majority of civil cases from the Court of Session under the Court Reforms (Scotland) Bill mean it's likely that some of the remaining courts, which are already at capacity, will struggle with the increased level of business, which in turn could slow down proceedings and increase costs.
"It remains to be seen whether the Justice Committee, which has been hearing evidence today as part of its series of evidence gathering sessions from across the legal sector on the issue, intends to put this to the chamber for a full debate or if they will accept the recommendations. We are grateful for the committee's deliberations but we hope there will be an opportunity for all MSPs to debate in full such an important issue."
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Valerie McEwan on 0131 226 8884 or Suzy Powell on 0131 476 8115.
04 June 2013