Peebles court closure scheme ‘short-sighted’

Solicitor Ian Burke at Peebles Sheriff Court in Rosetta Road.
Solicitor Ian Burke at Peebles Sheriff Court in Rosetta Road.

A local solicitor has called the closure of Peebles and Duns sheriff courts ‘short-sighted’ and has criticised the public consultation on the plan.

Iain Burke’s comments followed Tuesday’s publication of the Scottish Court Service’s final report on the future of local courts.

It confirmed the proposal to close Peebles and Duns sheriff courts in January 2015, and transfer cases to Selkirk and Jedburgh respectively.

Mr Burke said the final proposals had remained the same as those put out for consultation last year, which had drawn significant criticism locally, including from Sheriff Kevin Drummond.

Mr Burke said he was not surprised the ‘pretend’ public consultation had not changed anything, adding: “I think the proposal is very short-sighted and unfair for the local area.”

The increased travel time and costs are also of a concern to Mr Burke, who said these, along with lost court days due to non-appearances, meant the suggested savings behind the closures would not be made.

“The costs are being shuffled around, they are not being saved,” he said.

The court service has also proposed moving all jury cases in the Borders to Edinburgh over the next 10 years, which Mr Burke said would lead to opposing parties having to share a two-hour bus ride to court in some instances.

John Lamont MSP said the closure of the courts was a ‘hugely disappointing decision’ and would ‘severely limit’ local people’s access to the justice system. He added that the extra workload for the courts in Selkirk and Jedburgh would lead to more delays in the system.

Scottish Court Service chief executive Eric McQueen said: “Many of the responses to the consultation pointed to the extent of additional travel and inconvenience and we acknowledge this will be the case for some court users, while clarifying that the actual number of members of the public that this would affect is very small.”

The Scottish Government will have the final decision on the proposed closures.