Assurances court can deal with business

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Claims that Forfar Sheriff Court is struggling to meet it target for the disposal of cases have been dismissed by the Scottish Court Service (SCS)

The Scottish Conservatives have said that the court is falling short of it target to deal with cases within 26 weeks, from caution or charge to verdict, since Arbroath Sheriff Court was closed and its business diverted to Forfar.

Figures indicated that in June, 87.1 per cent of cases went to verdict within 26 weeks, down from 89.3 per cent since the courts’ merger in May, when the target is to achieve 100 per cent.

Alex Johstone, north east Conservative MSP, said the Scottish Government had implemented the plans despite warnings of a backlog at remaining courts.

He continued: “The SNP said remaining courts would not be adversely affected by the closures. Clearly that is not the case and it demonstrates their total unwillingness to listen to anybody.

“The real concern is for the relatives and victims of crimes who want justice to be handed out quickly and efficiently, which helps them move on from the often traumatic experiences they may have had.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Court Service, however, said measures are in place to increase the number of cases dealt with within the timeframe and that just five per cent of business had been redistributed with no reduction in judicial or court staff.

She continued: “Whilst overall levels of crimes have fallen in recent years, the reporting and detection of some crimes has increased over the past year. These increases reflect more proactive policing and prosecution, better evidence gathering and greater confidence amongst victims in reporting certain crimes, including historic crimes.

“To tackle these increases, targeted measures have been agreed across justice organisations, with additional judicial, court and Crown Office staff being deployed. These measures will increase the number of cases settled within 26 weeks and demonstrate that court capacity is available to deal with the increased levels of business.”