Politicians unite against court closure
CROSS party politicians have hit out against proposals to close Alloa Sheriff Court.
Gordon Banks, Labour MP for Ochil & South Perthshire and Liz Smith, Tory MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife, say it could restrict access to justice.
As reported in the Advertiser last week, the Scottish Court Service (SCS) is consulting on plans to close the Alloa court and move business to Stirling and Falkirk.
It 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. Eric McQueen, Executive Director of SCS said the status quo was "not an option".
Alloa Sheriff Court was once labelled the busiest court in the country and in 2009 a second court room was opened in a £1.5 million refurbishment to alleviate the backlog.
Mr Banks fears transferring court business to Stirling and Falkirk could see that backlog return.
He said, "As I understand it Alloa court is one of the busiest per head of population in Scotland. This is not necessarily something to be proud of but does highlight the need for a local facility.
"There is a real need for justice to be swift so that those guilty can receive punishment whilst their wrongdoings are still fresh in their minds. Likewise for victims swift justice is necessary to allow them to move on and get on with the rest of their lives.
"I can see nothing in the long term that will make justice quicker, better or cheaper from closing Alloa court. The Scottish Government need to step in and guarantee its future."
Ms Smith accused the Scottish Government of pursuing a "soft touch" agenda by closing the courts.
She said, "In the current economic climate it is right that the Scottish Court Service is looking at ways to make savings and to deliver services in a more cost effective way.
"However, such a reduction in the number of courts should only be made if the overall capacity for processing criminal and civil cases is not adversely affected.
"This review should not become another opportunity for the SNP Government to pursue its soft touch agenda by reducing the number of cases which are prosecuted in favour of prosecutors issuing more warnings and fiscal fines."
"These proposed changes require careful consideration, especially in rural areas where the presence of a local court can save time and money.
"As the Scottish Court Service itself accepts, court closures will impact on travel time and this could lead to trials being delayed."
The proposals are out for a three-month consultation.
This article appeared in Alloa & Hillfoots Advertiser 02 Oct 12
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Oct 3, 11:29
Alloa & Hillfoots Advertiser Poll
Do you agree with the introduction of a 'Bedroom Tax'?
This Poll is now closed.