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Scottish Court Service proposes court closures

The Scottish Court Service (SCS) has published its report and recommendations on ‘Shaping Scotland’s Court Services’ following its consideration of responses received from public consultation.

SCS Chief Executive Eric McQueen explained:

“The Scottish legal system is about to embark on the most significant changes in well over a century.  Civil and criminal justice will be reformed in the coming years following the recommendations arising from the reviews conducted by Lord Gill, Lord Carloway, Sheriff Principal Bowen and the current Victims and Witnesses Bill.  These reviews are not simply about a redistribution of existing business, but have implications for how and where court services will be delivered in the future.”

The recommendations made in the report include:

  • High Court cases being heard predominately in three dedicated centres,
  • the closure of ten sheriff courts, including nine co-located Justice of the Peace Courts,
  • the closure of seven Justice of the Peace Courts, and
  • a move towards specialist jury centres over a longer ten year period.

The Law Society of Scotland has criticised the proposals, warning that plans to close ten sheriff courts across Scotland threaten access to justice and will fail to deliver financial savings.

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.”