Will court reforms affect local access to justice, asks Committee?


Individuals, communities and organisations from Annan to Wick have been invited to give their views to the Justice Committee today on the local impact of the proposed reform of Scotland’s Court Services (SCS).

In a call for evidence published today, the Justice Committee is asking for views on the SCS recommendations on the proposed restructuring of court services in Scotland. 

The recommendations include the closure of ten sheriff courts and seven justice of the peace courts. The sheriff courts include: Dornoch, Duns, Kirkcudbright, Peebles, Rothesay, Cupar, Dingwall, Arbroath, Haddington and Stonehaven, with their business transferred to nearby locations. Also facing closure are justice of the peace courts in Annan, Irvine, Motherwell, Cumbernauld, Portree, Stornoway and Wick.

Justice Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said:

“It is vital that we get the full picture of how these proposals from the Scottish Court Services may impact on everything from court users to the provision of legal services and access to justice.

“Our call for evidence asks people in the communities directly affected by the proposed closures across Scotland how they feel about the changes. Do they feel that travelling further to a sheriff court as a witness will affect their access to justice? Or do they feel that the reforms will offer court users an improved and specialist service in a concentrated area? We also hear from local sheriffs that sometimes the greatest sanction for the guilty party can be the threat of being named and shamed in the local press who cover the courts – so how would the proposals affect the deterrent of local media coverage?”


A consultation on the SCS’s proposals on a future court structure was undertaken in late 2012. The SCS published its report and recommendations “Shaping Scotland’s Court Services” on 9 April 2013 after responses to the consultation had been considered. 

The Justice Committee agreed to consider and take evidence on all of the report’s recommendations at its meeting on 16 April. It has agreed to hold three panels of witnesses at its meeting on 21 May and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice will give evidence on 4 June.  A further consultation on the closures will now be carried out by SCS, and it is anticipated that orders to close the courts will be laid in the Scottish Parliament before the summer recess and considered by the Justice Committee.

Details of the call for evidence can be found in the Current Business section of the Justice Committee’s webpage.


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