MSP blames court clo­sures on cases‘back­log’

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - NEWS -

There has been a “dra­matic drop” in the num­ber of cases be­ing pro­cessed within a 26-week tar­get at Dum­fries Sher­iff Court.

And MSP Oliver Mun­dell has blamed the fig­ures on the clo­sure of courts at An­nan and Kirkcud­bright, a claim hotly dis­puted by the courts and Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

Lat­est fig­ures pub­lished show that 73.9 per cent of cases at Dum­fries were pro­cessed within the 26-week Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment tar­get, down from 87.6 per cent at the same time last year.

Mr Mun­dell said: “These fig­ures come as a stark re­minder to the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment that their pol­icy of clos­ing lo­cal courts has com­pletely failed and left courts such as Dum­fries, strug­gling to cope with a back­log. Peo­ple are hav­ing to wait far too long to get jus­tice in our area, yet the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment still do not ap­pear to have any plan to put the proper re­sources in place to sup­port our re­main­ing courts.

“The fact that we are see­ing such dra­matic de­creases in the num­ber of cases that are pro­cessed year on year is ex­tremely wor­ry­ing and only ap­pears to be get­ting worse.

“We were told that clos­ing courts at An­nan and Kirkcud­bright would help the court sys­tem in Dum­fries and Gal­loway but in fact the ex­act op­po­site has hap­pened.

“Dum­fries Sher­iff Court needs the re­sources to help achieve bet­ter re­sults in re­la­tion to the 26week tar­get and that should be a mat­ter of pri­or­ity for the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.”

How­ever, a spokesman for the Scot­tish Courts Ser­vice said: “The 26-week tar­get is an over­all jus­tice sys­tem wide tar­get, cov­er­ing the pe­riod be­tween po­lice cau­tion and charge, to COPFS pros­e­cu­tion, to court ver­dict.

“There is ab­so­lutely no cor­re­la­tion with court clo­sures and the statis­tics pre­sented in this re­lease. In fact 74 per cent of courts across Scot­land were com­pletely un­af­fected by court clo­sures. Ninety-seven per cent of sher­iff courts, in­clud­ing Dum­fries, are of­fer­ing trial di­ets at the op­ti­mum 16-week wait­ing pe­riod.”

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokes­woman added: “There is no ev­i­dence to sug­gest that court clo­sures has had any im­pact on the time it takes for cases to go through the courts. The rise of re­port­ing and pros­e­cu­tion of cer­tain types of crime has put ex­tra pres­sure on the courts.

“We have al­ready al­lo­cated nearly £1.5 mil­lion for ex­tra fis­cals, ju­di­ciary and ad­min­is­tra­tion staff to help re­spond to de­lays and speed up ac­cess to jus­tice for vic­tims and wit­nesses and are spend­ing an ex­tra £5 mil­lion im­prov­ing ef­fi­ciency of cases in­volv­ing do­mes­tic abuse and sex­ual of­fences.”

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