Court closure to blame for backlog of case hearings

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The closure of Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court last year is contributing to a backlog of cases to be heard in Dumfries, it was claimed this week.

The Scottish Government’s own figures have revealed Dumfries Sheriff court is struggling to meet a key SNP target, with the overall percentage of cases dealt with within 26 weeks at a five-year low.

Following a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Conservatives, it was revealed in 2013/14 that only 68.8 percent of sheriff cases went from charge to verdict within the target period, compared with 71.7 per cent in 2012/13.

That means more than a quarter of cases are dragging on for longer than 182 days.

The Scottish Conservatives said this week that the findings demonstrate the sheriff court in Dumfries was already struggling, years before the majority SNP government decided to close Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court last November.

Scottish Conservative General Election candidate for Dumfries and Galloway Finlay Carson said: “The simple fact is justice delayed is justice denied.

“Dumfries Sheriff court is clearly struggling under increasing strain and now we discover the issue of delays to justice, far from being a recent problem has staggeringly been getting worse for five years now.

“No matter what the SNP will say about the target being a guideline, the truth is that this majority SNP government’s justice system reform policies have been both inept and incompetent.

“As usual, this majority SNP government and the justice secretary brushed aside not only opposition politicians’ concerns but the concerns expressed by experts too.

“The people who will suffer the most are witnesses and the families of victims who understandably do not want to spend days on end with court cases hanging over them.

“I’ve already urged the cabinet secretary to reconsider the court closures and in light of these latest figures, I can only repeat that call and add immediate action must surely be taken.”