UK Government cuts have affected all Scotland’s public sector and the challenge facing the Scottish Court Service, a £4.5 million reduction in its revenue budget, has brought forward a serious of proposed changes to Scotland’s court structure, including some closures.
Dingwall’s relative proximity to Inverness meant that it’s Sheriff Court workload was an inevitable target
In advance of the consultation on court reforms, John Finnie, Independent MSP for the Highlands and Islands asked for dedicated Highland Domestic Abuse Court to be set up in Dingwall a point he reiterate in his response to court closures consultation
Following a series of meetings with Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, and the Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service (SCS) Mr Finnie secured an assurance that, working with local authority partners, SCS will provide remote facilities for vulnerable witness in Dingwall, a commitment now extended to all areas facing court closures.
Following this agreement, Mr Finnie met with Ross-shire Woman’s Aid (RWA) to hear again about their concerns about implications of move to Inverness for their clients where trials may be required.
RWA outlined benefit they saw of ‘clustering domestic violence cases’ on same day at Inverness Sheriff Court, an appropriate number of fixed days per month being dedicated ‘Domestic Violence Days’.
Speaking following today’s Justice Committee meeting in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Finnie said:
“I agreed with Ross-shire Women’s’ Aid that the benefit of clustering cases at Inverness would ensure all support services can be present on the same day, with a consistency of treatment as expertise in domestic violence cases is built up by individual sheriff, in line with the move to have ‘specialist sheriff’ under the revised structure.
“I met again with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice last week and was delighted he confirmed that this approach should be adopted by all the agencies involved in dealing with domestic abuse cases where speed of processing is of the essence.
“I have written to the Sheriff Principal, Derrick Pyle, asking for his assistance in putting in place this sensible approach as soon as possible.
“Whilst no-one would have wanted the court closures, the level of cuts from the UK Government meant the status quo was never an option and I am delighted that there has been some good come out of this process in the form of additional support for vulnerable witnesses and an undertaking to deal with domestic violence cases in this dedicated way.”