Future of Forfar Sheriff Court to be decided

THE FUTURE of Forfar Sheriff Court looks to be secure.

A consultation into the Scottish Court Service proposes that Forfar is retained while the Sheriff Court in Arbroath is closed. This would see all activity moving to Forfar.

The consultation comes as the Scottish legal system embarks on the most significant changes in over a century.

The three-month consultation, now under way, centres on court services in the High Court, sheriff courts and justice of the peace courts.

Civil and criminal justice will be reformed in the coming years following the recommendations arising from the reviews by Lord Gill, Lord Carloway, Sheriff Principal Bowen and the forthcoming Victims and Witnesses Bill.

Angus MP Mike Weir was one of the first to comment, he said: “The original proposal would have seen much of the business from Arbroath transferred to Dundee and Forfar Sheriff Court closed completely. That would have left Angus with little or no legal services. It is absolutely vital that such services are retained within Angus”

“Whilst the revised proposal does seem to accept the need to retain a full range of services within the county, the proposed closure of Arbroath Sheriff Court could have a significant impact on the town and it is important that we have a clear idea of how the town and business would be affected.

“The issue of access to services goes further than the town itself, since the court currently also serves Montrose, Carnoustie and Monifieth, raising serious issues of access to the courts.”

“I would urge everyone to fully consider the impact of the proposals and to make their views known during the consultation process.”

Eric McQueen, executive director, Scottish Courts Service, said: “We have to provide a court structure that provides access to justice for the people of Scotland, along with the facilities and services which they have a right to expect. That structure has to reflect the planned reforms to the justice system and at the same time be affordable in the long term. We already know the status quo is not an option.

“With greater levels of specialisation expected to result from the justice reforms, we anticipate the most serious types of business being heard in fewer locations. Many of our court buildings were built in Victorian times and are both expensive to maintain and difficult to adapt to modern needs. Fewer court buildings would allow SCS to target future investment to ensure that the best possible facilities and level of service is available for all court users but more particularly for victims, witnesses, and vulnerable people.

“We accept that having fewer court buildings, as proposed, will impact on travel distances for some people and the consultation paper sets out the likely impact of the proposed changes. For most people, attending court is a rare experience and future court services will seek to reduce this requirement through greater use of technology and online services.”

The consultation paper has been sent directly to over 1,000 consultees today and the Scottish Court Service wishes to hear the views of everyone who has an interest by the consultation close in December.

You can respond by logging on to: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/consultations/index.asp

For the full story and how this could affect the town please see next week’s Forfar Dispatch on Wednesday, September 26.