BREAKING NEWS: MSPs vote to close court

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The final sentence has been passed on Arbroath Sheriff Court after MSPs backed plans to close the facility.

Members of Holyrood’s justice committee met this morning (Tuesday) to discuss the fate of the town court and several others across the country.

But members of the committee voted five votes to four to axe Arbroath Sheriff Court and other closure threatened sites.

This is despite a high profile campaign by local solicitors and business people to persuage the government to retain the court.

Once the High Street court has closed, all work including staff will be transferred to Forfar Sheriff Court.

It is thought this will be completed by May 2014.

Angus Couth MSP Graeme Dey said was regrettable the court was closing but hopes the building will sell on quickly.

He explained: ““I have, along with Mike Weir MP, been in discussions with the Scottish Court Service form some time over the logistical and practical problems which might arise from closure of Arbroath Sherriff Court.

“Now the decision to close has been taken we’ll be looking to take those matters forward in order to try and mitigate the impact as regards witnesses and victims getting to Forfar and being provided with appropriate facilities once there.

“It is to be regretted that Arbroath Sherriff Court will close but my main concern has, for some time, been that if Forfar had gone instead, as was originally proposed, then, given the custody issues at Arbroath which were highlighted in an HMI Prisons report, then the Arbroath court would have followed a few years down the line leaving us with no justice footprint in the county.

“As regards what happens to the court building in Arbroath that’s something Mike Weir and I have also pursued with the SCS because no-one wants another empty property on the High Street.

“Understandably they will be looking to sell the building. But should that not prove achievable then we will be investigating other possibilities with them.”

But north east Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone called the decision a “cowardly approach.”

He added: “Today’s rubber stamping exercise by the SNP members of the Justice Committee denies all MSPs of the Scottish Parliament the opportunity to debate and vote on these court closures.

““This is a cowardly approach to government decision making and regrettably once again demonstrates the SNPs centralising and soft touch agenda.

“This is the wrong decision made for the wrong reasons and I have absolutely no doubt our communities will be paying a high price for it.”