Verdict saves sheriff courts

Court chiefs are ruling out a single justice centre for the Borders and say that sheriff courts will remain in Selkirk and Jedburgh.

A report just published reveals that the cost of building and fitting out a super court, probably in Galashiels, would be a staggering £7.5million.

Sheriff courts in Peebles and Duns will be axed next year and those in Selkirk and Jedburgh were under review.

One option was a single justice centre to be used only for the more serious criminal cases and complicated civil hearings, with other cases being held in different locations across the Borders.

Another was – the hub and spoke model – a smaller-scale centre in Galashiels, with Jedburgh as a satellite court.

A third was to retain both Selkirk and Jedburgh. And this week the Scottish Court Services Board backed that option which was supported in a feasibility study conducted by the court service, the council, the police, the Crown Office and Prosecution Service, and Lothian and Borders Community Justice Authority.

But the report stresses the decision is not being made on costs alone – although it is a major factor. Crime and consequently the number of court cases – and in particular trials – are falling in the Borders.

The report states: “The study comprehensively tested the justice centre model in the context of the Scottish Borders, as well as rigorously examining other options. There is no doubting the appropriateness of the justice concept in the right setting.

“It is also clear, however, that Scotland’s communities do not lend themselves to a one-size-fits-all approach, and that the work of the study has allowed a fully informed conclusion to be reached.”

Chief executive of the Scottish Court Service Eric McQueen commented: “The feasibility study shows that, while it is right we test the concept of justice centres, it is equally important that we tailor approaches that are right for local communities, and we will continue with this approach as we consider justice centres in other areas.”

The news that Selkirk and Jedburgh courts will remain open was welcomed by local MP Michael Moore.

He said: “It is great news for our local justice services. I am glad the study has seen sense.”