MSP blames court closures on cases‘backlog’
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.”