New start for local court service

Investment plans for Forfar Sheriff Court.
Investment plans for Forfar Sheriff Court.

The county’s new court system began this week, with sheriff and justice of the peace court services closed in Arbroath and centralised in Forfar.

The Scottish Court Service (SCS) said that the restructuring is part of some of the most visionary changes to Scotland’s justice system in well over a century and supports legislative reform and improves services and facilities for court users, including victims and witnesses.

It also said the move is affordable in the long term.

The volume of business transacted in the courts is around five per cent of the overall court business across Scotland. Court capacity in all receiving courts will be supported by the transfer of staff and members of the judiciary from closing courts to deal with the business.

Eric McQueen, SCS chief executive, said: “Our vision is to have court structures in place that are cost effective, proportionate, accessible and efficient. Cases and appeals will be heard by the right court in both civil and criminal cases, with the highest courts reserved for the most serious and complex cases.

“Court procedures will be as easy as possible to understand and access and cases dealt with as efficiently as possible once they come to court.

“Investing in fewer courts enables us to make these improvements to facilities and technology, which will provide better services for all court users, and in particular victims and witnesses. Where sheriff courts are closing we have installed facilities to allow victims and witnesses to use video technology to give evidence or make contact with the court, where this is allowed by the current legislation.”

At Forfar Sheriff Court, the SCS has invested in improvements for vulnerable witnesses; new accommodation for the Witness Service and better custody facilities.