Fears over loss of Forfar sheriff court

FORFAR Community Council is to write to the Scottish Court Service outlining their concerns over the impact any possible closure of Forfar Sheriff Court would have on the local judiciary system.

At their meeting last Thursday evening, members, along with Angus Councillor Glennis Middleton, listed a raft of issues which they feared would surface if the doors at the prominent building in the town were to close.

In light of a review being carried out by the service of the business conducted in different locations, Chairman Mrs Isobel Ross warned that, if there was no court facility in Forfar, people would not attend court as they would have to travel out of town.

She said: “I am not happy about this. There will be a whole lot of problems. People will not attend court as they won’t pay the bus fare to Dundee or wherever. I think this will have a knock effect. We are the county town, we have High courts sitting in Forfar. I think we really need to write to the Scottish Court Service to state our case.”

Her stance was supported by councillor Glennis Middleton who urged the community council to clearly state the reasons why they were against any possible closure.

She said: “The court diary in Forfar is a very busy one, and yet there are still lots of delays simply because of that busy diary.

“It would be problematic if the sheriff court was to close in Forfar. It would be very difficult, not only for the accused but for the witnesses, police time, a whole range of things. I would have preferred to see a secondary court in Forfar with a fast-track approach, rather than losing the court altogether. I think that would be a very retrograde step. The implications are far more wide-ranging than they first appeared to be.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Courts Service confirmed on Friday there were, at present, no proposals to close any courts.

The statement from the SCS said: “The Scottish Court Service is facing a future where budget levels will reduce and there will be major service reforms arising from Lord Gill’s review of civil courts, Sheriff Principal Bowen’s review of sheriff and jury trials and recent recommendations announced in Lord Carloway’s report.

“We have initiated a review which looks at what business should be done in different locations around the country and an internal discussion document was prepared to promote this conversation with SCS staff and judicial members to help us discuss practical issues and to assist us to develop options for delivering the service in the future. “As part of our fact finding, we wanted to make sure we fully understood local issues and could take these into account along with other business analysis work we are undertaking. That is the stage we are currently at.

“When this review work is complete it will be our intention to produce ideas for further discussion and at that stage we will want to involve a wide representation of interested groups and individuals to help us develop and improve our proposals.

“It is too soon to speculate on the future of any particular court but any proposal to close a court will require a full public consultation to be undertaken and ultimately, a decision by the Scottish Parliament.”