Report shows courts struggle with targets

DUNS SHERIFF COURT AND JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURTIN DUNS, SCOTTISH BORDERS
DUNS SHERIFF COURT AND JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURTIN DUNS, SCOTTISH BORDERS
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A new report from Audit Scotland shows nearly 4 in 10 cases take more than 6 months to reach a verdict since the decision to close Duns and Peebles Sheriff and JP Courts.

Overall, more cases are going to trial, and generally taking longer, something some commentators attribute to a greater confidence in speaking out from victims of sexual crimes.

During the 2014/15 period, only 62.1% of summary criminal cases in the Lothian and Borders Sheriffdom concluded within 26 weeks, the government’s target for efficiency. In 2012/13, before the closures, that figure was 71%.

Following the closure of 10 courts across Scotland, the new report – ‘Efficiency of prosecuting criminal cases through the sheriff courts’ – concludes that the facilities are under “increasing pressure.”

Across Scotland, 11% of cases took more than a year to conclude.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal service welcomed the report.

A spokesman said: “We are fully committed to playing our part in implementing its recommendations to ensure that together we continue to provide an effective justice system for the people of Scotland.”

In 2013, the SNP members of the Justice Committee voted in favour of court closures against the opposition of other MSPs, some legal experts and victims groups.

John Lamont, MSP said: “It’s clear from this report that courts in the Borders are under increasing pressure as a result of the SNP forcing through court closures.

“The Scottish Government was warned by opposition MSPs, legal experts and victims groups that closures would harm access to justice and cause delays.”