To quote Gordon Hewart, seventh Lord Chief Justice of England, no less, “Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done.”
Lord Hewart’s aphorism seems particularly apt in a week which has seen the courthouse at Duns close its doors for the final time, following hot on the heels of Peebles suffering a similar fate earlier this month. This leaves only Jedburgh and Selkirk courts still operating in this region.
And there are real fears among Borders legal circles that all jury trials will be moved to Edinburgh – no doubt causing extra travel and time hassle for accused, witnesses and lawyers. This financially-driven Scottish Court Service (SCS) shake-up also means all cases – criminal and civil – will be heard at Jedburgh one week, then Selkirk the next.
One of the Borders’ leading lawyers, Iain Burke, is concerned the changes will result in a loss of access to local justice.
It’s all a far cry from the not-too-distant days when Jedburgh regularly boasted High Court sittings. Indeed, some senior members of the Borders press corps – serving and retired – can recall covering murder trials at that ancient seat of justice.
Perhaps the SCS should have first given the changes a trial period, so to speak, rather than imposing its own brand of Jethart Justice.