The Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP today warned that local concerns over the impact of court closures on access to justice cannot be brushed under the carpet.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) last week published a report on the impact of the closure of 17 Sheriffs and Justice of the Peace courts between 2013 and 2015. In a letter to the convener of the Holyrood justice committee, Mr McArthur said that the review failed to detail the experience of people who have been forced to travel further for court appearances, despite previous negative feedback in the last SCTS review.
Mr McArthur is calling for the justice committee to hold evidence hearings on the impact of the court reforms in order to assess the full impact of the Scottish Government’s closure programme on access to justice, and plans for new justice centres.
In his letter, Liam McArthur MSP said:
“The report does not adequately detail the perspective of people who need to travel further for court appearances. This was certainly reflected in negative feedback during the last SCTS biannual customer review, demonstrating that these concerns have yet to be allayed.
“I think that it is clear that the controversial programme of court closures needs additional scrutiny to better understand the Scottish Government’s overhaul of Scotland’s court structure.
“We also need to consider the further work planned in this area, such as the establishment of justice centres which are central to the vision set out by the SCTS.”
Speaking after the letter was sent, Mr McArthur added:
“These court closures were controversial from the outset. There have been regular reports of people who have experienced problems as a result of the Scottish Government’s reforms, but you would not have known this from the SCTS’ report.
“It is not good enough to sweep problems under the carpet. We need to ensure that the concerns of local people in the communities affected are addressed. An evidence session at the justice committee would help ensure that we are getting a proper picture of the challenges in terms of access to Scotland’s courts.”