Citizens Advice Scotland's response to the Scottish Court Services consultation on the future of Scotland's Court services.
The proposals of the Scottish Court Service fall in to different categories with potentially linked consequences. CAS are concerned that access to justice is disproportionally affected when balanced against the need to close courts for financial reasons. We are also worried about the impact closures may have on the legal services advice provision bureaux offer, as well as the unknown impact of welfare reform changes (for example the potential increase in rent and mortgage arrears as clients struggle to claim disability benefits).
In summary, the proposals are:
Changes to the High Court Circuit
It is proposed in the consultation that the High Court will primarily sit in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. Additionally, the High Court will sit in the designated Sheriff courts in Greenock, Paisley, Dumbarton, Livingston and Dunfermline. When deemed in 'the interests of justice' the Lord Justice General or Lord Advocate may allow sittings in other places.
Consolodating Sheriff and jury business and other shrieval specialisation
Sheriff and jury business will be limited to 16 out of the 49 Sheriff courts. Currently Sheriff and jury trials are available in 47 of the 49.
Closures of Justice of the Peace Courts
It is proposed that 8 JCP courts will close in total.
Closures of Sheriff courts with low volumes of business
This and the next section are potentially the areas which will most affect clients. It is proposed that Dornoch, Duns, Kirkcudbright, Peebles and Rothesay Sheriff courts will close with the business from those courts moving to Tain, Jedburgh, Dumfries, Edinburgh and Greenock Sheriff courts respectively.
Closures of Sheriff courts in proximity to another
Under this proposal, 6 Sheriff courts would close. Alloa, Cupar, Dingwall, Arbroath, Haddington and Stonehaven will have their business transferred to Stirling (solemn business Falkirk), Dundee, Inverness, Forfar, Edinburgh and Aberdeen respectively.
The Bureau survey
Thank you to all bureaux who participated in the survey to gather your views about the issues.