Part-time charge denied by courts

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Borders politicians on opposite sides of the divide have blasted the news that Jedburgh and Selkirk sheriff courts will operate on alternate weeks.

Lib Dem MP Michael Moore and Tory MSP John Lamont said the move has created part-time courts.

But that claim has been refuted by bosses at the Scottish Court Service.

Sheriff courts at Duns and Peebles have now closed, with the workload being shared between Jedburgh and Selkirk. But the courts will sit on alternate weeks, although other business will be transacted.

Mr Lamont described the loss of Peebles and Duns as a massive blow to the Borders.

And he added: “We now hear that this is only the start of it and the Scottish Court Service now plans to place the final two courts, at Jedburgh and Selkirk, onto a part- time basis.

“This, in effect, means we are losing another court in the Borders and are left with the equivalent of only one full-time court.”

And Mr Moore accused the SNP government of cutting justice provision in the region by stealth.

He commented: “This additional news that the courts in Jedburgh and Selkirk will now become part-time is yet another blow and will reduce the service we receive here in the Borders even further.

“Through their centralised agenda, the SNP is cutting local justice provision which is having a damaging effect on services in the Borders.”

Mr Lamont added: “We already know that Jedburgh court is struggling to cope with its business, with only just over half of all cases being heard within the government’s target. Now it’s been announced that all these cases are to be heard by two part-time courts.

“Local justice is being slowly destroyed.”

But the Scottish Court Service maintains that is not the case.

A spokesman told us: “It is completely wrong to suggest that the Borders are losing another court, with the equivalent of only one full-time court in operation.

“The courts in Jedburgh and Selkirk are key to the delivery of local justice in the Borders and both will continue to operate each week on a full-time basis.

“To make sure we can continue to deliver the best service, we have put in place a new court programme where, on alternative weeks, one court will deal with summary criminal courts, including custodies, while the other deals with civil business and criminal jury trial business.”

The spokesman added: “Court programming is the responsibility of the sheriff principal. This has followed consultation initiated in the autumn with local justice partners, including solicitors, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Police Scotland.”

Mr Moore has asked Justice Secretary Michael Matheson to reconsider and Mr Lamont wants the situation looked at by parliament.

Sheriff Kevin Drummond criticised the closures at Peebles and Duns when he presided at their final sittings.