Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court facing closure

Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court
Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court

KIRKCUDBRIGHT Sheriff Court has been earmarked for possible closure in an internal discussion paper circulated amongst staff.

Dozens of courts face the axe and many more could see jury trials slashed from their calendars.

As part of a costcutting plan to save cash following a 20 percent cut in funding from the Scottish Government, 120 jobs have already been lost from the Scottish Court Service and now a list has been drawn up of courts which are deemed too close to other courts to justify their existence or are simply not busy enough - including Kirkcudbright.

A total of 34 court buildings around the country have been nominated for consideration under the plans. A dozen sheriff courts could go because they are not busy enough, including Dornoch, Duns, Kirkcudbright, Tain, Peebles, Rothesay and Lochgilphead.

Justice of the Peace courts in Annan, Coatbridge, Cumbernauld, Kirkcaldy and Irvine look doomed for the same reason.

A further eight sheriff courts – in Alloa, Cupar, Dingwall, Forfar, Haddington, Lanark, Selkirk and Stonehaven – are also set to shut because they cover towns of less than 20,000 and are within 20 miles of another, bigger court.

One measure likely to spark controversy is plans to end jury trials in two thirds of the country’s 49 sheriff courts. This would mean that many serious cases, including sex crimes, assaults and sex crimes are no longer heard locally but in 14 centralised hub courts, which would be better suited to accommodating juries of 15 people.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Court Service (SCS) said: “The Scottish Court Service is facing a future where budget levels will reduce and there will be major service reforms arising from Lord Gill’s review of civil courts, Sheriff Principal Bowen’s review of sheriff and jury trials and recent recommendations announced in Lord Carloway’s report.

“We have initiated a review which looks at the potential reforms and what business should be done in different locations around the country.

“An internal discussion document was prepared to promote this conversation with SCS staff and judicial members to help us discuss practical issues and to assist us to develop options for delivering the service in the future.

“As part of our fact finding, we wanted to make sure we fully understood local issues and could take these into account along with other business analysis work we are undertaking. That is the stage we are currently at.

“When this review work is complete it will be our intention to produce ideas for further discussion and at that stage we will want to involve a wide representation of interested groups and individuals to help us develop and improve our proposals.

“It is too soon to speculate on the future of any particular court but any proposal to close a court will require a full public consultation to be undertaken and ultimately, a decision by the Scottish Parliament.”