Reaction to ‘blow’ to justice system

LOCAL politicians have expressed their disappointment as it looks as though Arbroath Sheriff Court will close its doors for good in May next year, writes Jennifer Newton.

On Tuesday, the final recommendations came from a Scottish Courts Service report, which announced the closure of the town’s facility with all work transferred to Forfar Sheriff Court.

However, the plans must still gain parliamentary approval before any closure.

It was rumoured that the axe would fall on the Forfar facility but in September last year, it was revealed plans to close the High Street court were to go out to consultation.

That consultation ended in December and was followed by a campaign by local legal professionals keen to see the court remain open.

They argued that the caseload at Arbroath was too great to transfer to Forfar, which they say is a smaller, less busy court.

However, some local people welcomed the news of the closure saying it would mean an end to prison transport vans parking in the town centre.

But Conservative north-east MSP Alex Johnstone described the closure as a blow to the justice system. He said: “I believe that the case for retaining Arbroath court was both overwhelming and compelling and there is no doubt in my mind that the justice system has suffered a real blow because of this.

“I firmly believe that justice must be delivered locally, and be seen to be delivered too. Closing local courts is not the way to inspire confidence in our justice system.

“It is clear that once again, the SNP Government has simply bulldozed over expert and public opinion, and in my view, this is another nail in the coffin of a justice system that was once the envy of the world.”

And Angus MP Mike Weir added: “I am disappointed that Arbroath Sheriff Court is to close. I argued for, and continue to believe, that the present structure of the courts in Arbroath and Forfar serves Angus well.”

Angus South MSP Graeme Dey was also disappointed by the report’s recommendations. He said: “This is obviously disappointing if not unexpected news.

“In my own submission to the consultation I made clear my concerns over the possible impact closure of the Sheriff Court would have on our High Street and access to justice and these remain my concerns on this matter.

“Through the criteria used by the SCS, however there was always going to be a court closure in Angus.

“I am just pleased that last year I secured a commitment that there would be no job losses involved.”

l What do you think about the closure? Do you own a business which will be affected? Send us your opinions in the usual way.