Court closure row rumbles on

Whilst the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament has made its decision to rubber-stamp court closures, the row over the move continues.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has warned that Sheriff Courts could buckle under the strain of a flood of personal injury cases unless safeguards are introduced.

They say a combination of court closures and Government plans to move thousands of cases from the Court of Session will cause delays and pressure in the sheriff courts unless there is significant improvement and investment in court staff, technology and procedures.

The warning came in APIL’s response to the Government’s consultation on the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill which has just closed.

A spokesman said: “If the new system is going to work, it will need an overhaul in its procedures, it will need a review of staffing, from specialist sheriffs to clerks and administrative staff, and it will need an overhaul in its technology to ensure it can cope with the huge influx of cases expected.”

Meanwhile, local MSP Nigel Don has replied to Councillor David May’s concerns about the closure of Arbroath Court: “I share your concern about transport, and made the point at the Justice Committee meeting when evidence was being heard.

“I think transport across Angus is an issue anyway. Access to Forfar by bus will need to be improved.

“I continue to be disappointed that courts are to be closed, but recognise the case made by the Lord President for rationalising the Sheriff Courts. I think it is now up to the Court Service to make the changes work, and get the court’s business done efficiently.”

• In an article last week Gordon Cook implied that Mr Don had voted for closure. This was based on the incorrect assumption that the vote was taken at the full Parliament. In fact, Mr Don had no opportunity to vote. This rendered a comment attributed to Councillor David May null and void. Apologies to both.