THE lawyer representing 80 practising solicitors in the Borders fears that all family business, including adoption, divorce and custody cases currently dealt with by courts in the region, will be transferred to Edinburgh from 2014, writes Andrew Keddie.
This, says Greig McDonell, will result in huge inconvenience and travel costs for interested parties, not least his own profession in which many practices have seen a major loss of income with the stagnation in house sales.
Mr McDonell is chairman of a Borders-wide committee of solicitors set up to respond to controversial proposals by the Scottish Court Service (SCS) which, in a bid to cut spending by 20 per cent, wants consideration of the closure of three of the region’s courts – Selkirk, Duns and Peebles.
Last week we reported how, under the proposals, jury trials would no longer take place at Jedburgh Sheriff Court but would be heard in Edinburgh.
On Friday, Mr McDonell attended a dialogue meeting organised by SCS at an Edinburgh Hotel. Also in attendance was Borders sheriff Kevin Drummond who has already defended the four court set-up.
“The removal of family cases to be heard by a specialist sheriff in Edinburgh was raised at the meeting; it is a very worrying suggestion and one, I’m sure, the three law faculties in the region will oppose,” said Mr McDonell. “Such a scenario will make life very difficult for people in already traumatic circumstances. It may save the SCS money but the tab will still have to be met from other public funds.”
However, he said he had taken some comfort from Friday’s meeting and SCS chief executive Eleanour Emberson’s acknowledgment of issues arising from a Borders perspective.
The SCS proposals are due to go out to public consultation in the autumn.