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Half of Scotland’s courts now taking longer to process cases

15 Feb 2017

Douglas Ross

Half of Scotland’s sheriff courts are taking longer to process cases than they were a year ago, new figures have revealed.

In total, more than 30 per cent are now failing to hit the 26-week target from issuing a caution or charge to reaching a verdict.

That compares to 73 per cent for the same period the previous year, with eight courts failing to even get 60 per cent of cases concluded on time.

Only two facilities – in Portree and Stornoway – managed to get all cases wrapped up within the six-month timeframe.

And of Scotland’s 40 sheriff courts, 19 are performing more poorly than a year ago.

It suggests courts across the country are struggling to cope with a series of closures embarked upon by the SNP in recent years.

One in five sheriff and justice of the peace courts closed, despite warnings of an increased workload for those remaining and inconvenience for victims and witnesses.

The statistics were revealed following a parliamentary question by Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont.

They show, in November 2016, 69.8 per cent of cases were dealt with in time, compared to 73.24 per cent for November 2015.

The Scottish Conservatives warned against court closures, arguing delays like this would occur, while lawyers have also been critical of the decision.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said:

“This is another example of the SNP being warned against making a decision for a number of reasons, but blundering on anyway.

“Now it’s taking longer to get cases through court, and many will feel that’s a direct result of the SNP’s closure programme.

“This doesn’t just have an adverse impact on the staff left to sort this out, but it also creates inconvenience for witnesses and victims of crime.

“Now that the SNP has shut these courts right across the country, the least it could do is ensure those remaining have sufficient resources to see cases through to their conclusion in the target timeframe.”

Notes to editors:

To see a copy of the data obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, visit:

http://www.scottishconservatives.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Copy-of-Court-cases-PQ.xlsx

The Scottish Conservatives have consistently criticised the SNP for the programme of court closures:

http://www.scottishconservatives.com/2015/09/sheriff-courts-less-efficient-in-wake-of-snp-closure-programme/

http://www.scottishconservatives.com/2013/03/snp-hasnt-thought-through-court-closures/

Shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross quizzed Michael Matheson on the issue at a recent Holyrood justice committee:

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10723