24 Apr 2013
Replacing closed sheriff courts with video links would be a sub-standard replacement for Scotland’s justice system, the Scottish Conservatives have warned.
The SNP has announced to shut a fifth of Scotland’s sheriff courts which could result in an increase in using technology like remote feeds to hear more court cases, the justice committee heard yesterday.
Speaking in a Scottish Parliament debate today, MSP Margaret Mitchell also emphasised the problems closing 10 sheriff courts will bring, meaning witnesses and victims are inconvenienced and the remaining courts overburdened with work.
Reducing the number of courts could also result in delays to trials and the loss of local knowledge among lawyers and sheriffs.
Scottish Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell said:
“The closure of courts will see the de-skilling of local solicitors and the loss of continuity provided by sheriffs and JPs with knowledge of local communities.
“These concerns cannot be dismissed by the assertion that technology can fill the gap.
“Video conferencing and a webcam is no substitute for courts which maintain visibility of justice for communities.
“In some cases the body language and even physical appearance of witnesses are difficult to assess via a television – and the barrier of a screen can make it difficult to build up a rapport with the witness, not to mention the countless technical issues that could occur.
“In reality, the attempt to make savings by closing these courts and diverting criminal and civil business to already overstretched courts comes at the expense of victims and witnesses.”