During the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee debate on Tuesday (October 30th) John challenged the written and oral evidence from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) regarding the impact of possible court closures on victims and witnesses
John Finnie, Independent MSP for the Highlands and Islands, and a Member of the Justice Committee, questioned the COPFS official about the written evidence provided and, in particular, comments about proposed changes for hearing for Sheriff and Jury trials across the Highlands and Islands.
Speaking after Mr Finnie said;
“There are a wide range of reforms proposed to Scotland’s courts, largely driven by the challenging financial settlement; however, what must be central to any changes agreed is the interests of victims and witnesses.
“I took issue with the COPFS’s comments which suggested that folk living in rural areas, who, if these proposals are accepted will now have to travel to much greater distances to reach court, often exceeding more than 100miles for a single journey, do not face ‘excessive travelling’. For the authorities in Edinburgh to state ‘none of the distances from existing centres to the proposed centres are prohibitive’ is at best insensitive.
“The COPFS confirmed to me that they are ‘conducting detailed analysis of the post codes of civilian witnesses’. As Sheriff and Jury trials will no longer take place in the county I questioned the additional costs witnesses travelling will incur and received an assurance that those details will be made available to the Justice Committee before any decision is taken.”
“In the meantime I would urge anyone with an opinion on this centralisation to respond to the consultation document with their views.”
The Consultation Document ‘Shaping Scotland’s court services’ is available here; http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/courtsadmin/shaping_scotland’s_court_services.pdf with the proposals relating to ‘Consolidating Sheriff and Jury Business’ on pages 27-31