Campaign to save the court
Published: 28 Nov 2012 09:302 comments
Your best selling local newspaper is urging its readers to sign a petition to "Save Alloa Sheriff Court".
It comes after the Scottish Court Service (SCS) announced plans to close the Alloa court and move business to Stirling and Falkirk.
The closure is part of a nationwide restructuring of the service, which includes closing 11 sheriff courts, due to reduced budgets, law reforms and a modernisation of the system. A three-month consultation on the plans concludes later next month.
Already cross-party politicians have come out against the proposals.
Now the Society of Solicitors of Clackmannanshire has formally announced its disapproval of the plans and, with the Advertiser, is calling on readers to support the retention of Alloa Sheriff Court.
Jim Savage, representative for Clackmannanshire Solicitors said, "It is local solicitors' view that this idea is ill conceived and the consequences have not been fully thought through. Alloa is a very busy court and only recently the Scottish Court Service spent over £3 million to expand the court facilities to meet local needs."
Alloa Sheriff Court, once labelled the busiest court in the country, is situated in the town's Mar Street and is continually used for children referrals, adoptions as well as criminal and civil cases.
In 2011-12 the court, which also hosts the district court and has nine SCS staff, sat for 312 days and dealt with 1115 criminal cases and 603 civil cases.
Under the plans, civil and summary matters would be dealt with in Stirling while solemn matters (Sheriff and Jury trials) would be transferred to Falkirk.
SCS says the move would annually save the service £112,000 but would rely on £460,000 of works to upgrade Falkirk Sheriff Court plus a one-off "restructuring" cost of £64,000.
Lawyers say any proposed long-term savings would be negligible due to the impact of travel costs and time on the police, social services, witnesses and the accused.
The vulnerable would be worst hit with those using public transport seeing their journey times almost double - an extra 30 minutes for some travelling from the Hillfoots to Stirling.
Travel costs would also have an impact on Alloa residents for the first time - either £8.30 (return) by bus or £4.10 by train on peak times to the city.
Mr Savage added, "Because of the Alloa court's accessibility, it serves and benefits those most vulnerable groups in the area. If these proposals go ahead, many clients would need to find the money to meet their own travel expenses and that of their solicitor's time travelling to and from court."
Readers can sign the "Save Alloa Sheriff Court" petition in our office in 39 Drysdale Street, Alloa or go online to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-alloa-sheriff-court/