East Lothian Council’s latest bid to persuade the SNP Scottish Government to rethink its planned closure of Haddington’s Sheriff and JP courts has been welcomed by local MSP Iain Gray.
The Council’s chief executive Angela Leitch has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to highlight concerns about recent figures for Edinburgh’s JP and Sheriff Courts, which show significant increases in the number of summary criminal cases being dealt with in the three months ending August 2013.
Councillors have expressed concerns about the figures because they fear that the closure next year of Haddington’s courts will lead to further increases in the number of cases being dealt with. This could have a negative impact on the efficient administration of justice, the interests of victims and witnesses, who could face longer waiting times till a possible court appearance, and the effectiveness of any community-based punishment ordered by the court.
In light of this information, the Council has asked Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to reconsider his decision to close Haddington Sheriff Court in January next year. Mr Gray has also written to the Justice Secretary to back the Council’s concerns and urge him to think again.
Iain Gray MSP said:
“Those of us who led the campaign to save Haddington’s courts consistently expressed concerns about the capacity of Edinburgh’s courts to deal with the extra workload that the SNP’s court closures will create. These figures make it clear that Edinburgh’s courts are already bursting at the seams and adding cases from East Lothian and other smaller courts will put real pressure on their ability to administer justice efficiently.
“I don’t want victims and witnesses in East Lothian to face longer and longer waits for court appearances and for justice to become inefficient and remote. East Lothian Council is absolutely right to highlight these concerns and press the Justice Secretary to reconsider his closure plans. I will back their call and continue to make the case for the retention of Haddington’s courts to preserve local justice in the county.”