Court closure concerns conveyed

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Nanette Milne, Scottish Conservative MSP for the North East, has expressed concern for the future of justice for rural communities following the proposal to close courts in Arbroath and Stonehaven.

The closures are being considered following a 20 per cent cut to the Scottish Court Service budget by the SNP Government.

Dr Milne said: “I share concerns being expressed by those who work in the Court Service that SNP court closure plans to save money may result in greater cost to the taxpayer in the long term, as well as potentially also impacting on police time.

“In the current economic climate it is right that the Scottish Court Service is looking at ways to make savings and to deliver services in a more cost effective way. However, such a reduction in the number of courts should only be made if the overall capacity for processing criminal and civil cases is not adversely affected.

“This review should not become another opportunity for the SNP Government to pursue its soft touch agenda by reducing the number of cases which are prosecuted in favour of prosecutors issuing more warnings and fiscal fines.

“A reduction in the number of courts should only be made if the capacity for processing criminal and civil cases is not adversely affected. I fail to see how this is achievable by the proposal to close more than a third of Scotland’s sheriff courts.

“These proposed changes require careful consideration, especially in rural areas where the presence of a local court can save time and money. As the Scottish Court Service itself accepts, court closures will impact on travel time and this could lead to trials being delayed.”

Dr Milne concluded: “Before any decisions are taken it is vital that SNP Ministers take on board the views expressed by Court staff, volunteers and members of the Crown Office, Procurator Fiscal Service and Scottish Prison Service before ploughing ahead with the closure plans.”