Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for South Scotland, has written to the Justice Secretary urging him to get behind proposals put forward by the East Lothian Faculty of Procurators to rethink the closure of Haddington Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts.
Mr Hume has written a joint submission to Mr Matheson alongside his colleague, Alison McInnes MSP, who is the Scottish Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Justice.
Mr Hume supports calls from the East Lothian Faculty of Procurators to suspend the closure and appoint summary sheriffs at a lesser cost, which would mean court business could still continue in Haddington.
Mr Hume and Ms McInnes met with Angela Craig, Acting Dean of the Faculty, last week (21st January).
Ahead of tonight’s public meeting in the town, Mr Hume said:
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have always opposed the closure of courts. Not only are our courts vital in dispensing justice in their local communities, they play a variety of invaluable roles in facilitating child access arrangements for families, child protection and drug treatment rehabilitation orders for example. Moving business to Edinburgh stands to jeopardise that work.
“Closing Haddington sheriff and JP courts would first of all make East Lothian the only local authority area without its own courts, but secondly with Edinburgh court struggling to process cases already because of pressure of work, it would jeopardise the efficiency and speed of dealing with critical family, child protection and drug rehabilitation matters currently going through the courts.
“There are real difficulties for people being forced to travel to Edinburgh for court business in terms of reliability and cost of public transport, and I worry that people are fundamentally losing access to their local justice services.
“Angela Craig and her colleagues are proposing that summary sheriffs should be appointed to oversee business in Haddington courts and this seems to be a wholly reasonable concept which I fully support. This would allow court business to continue locally alongside all the co-located services such as social work offices and the drug treatment centre, all of which are within walking distance of the CAB offices.”