New worries about court closures as figures show cases are taking longer

New evidence has emerged to show that the SNP Scottish Government’s court closures are already having a detrimental effect on local justice, with criminal cases taking longer to resolve following the initial closures.

Figures revealed in a recent parliamentary answer at Holyrood show that in Sheriff Courts the number of cases resolved in 26 weeks has fallen from 72 per cent in September last year to 68 per cent for the most recent figures in April 2014.

Around 74 per cent of cases in Justice of the Peace Courts were concluded within 26 weeks in September 2013, but fell to just 64 per cent by April this year.

Meanwhile, other statistics reveal that the average time taken for cases to be resolved is also rising. In September last year it took an average of 148 days for a summary criminal case to go through a JP court, but by April it was 177 days.

For Sheriff Court cases, the average time taken to conclude in September 2013 was 139, compared to 147 days in April.

The increases have come following the first phase of the SNP’s court closures, which took place at the turn of the year. Haddington’s Sheriff and JP courts are scheduled to close in January next year.

County MSP Iain Gray, who led the fight against the SNP’s plans to close Haddington’s courts, believes that this latest evidence reinforces the case that he and others have made against the closures.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“These figures provide tangible proof that the SNP’s court closures are already having a negative impact on the delivery of local justice in Scotland. With capacity reducing as local courts close, our justice system is slowing down and victims and witnesses are waiting longer to have their cases heard.

“Those of us who have opposed the closures, including the vast majority of experts involved in the operation of the justice system, said that this is what would happen. If the initial closures are having this kind of impact, I fear that local people will also see significant delays in their cases when East Lothian’s business moves to Edinburgh.

“It’s still not too late for Kenny MacAskill and the SNP to admit they are wrong on this issue and reverse the remaining closures, including Haddington.”