The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has began its scrutiny of the Court Reform (Scotland) Bill. Among the witness giving evidence were Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) and the Law Society of Scotland.
CAS believes any new system “should follow design principals with accessibility for users as the primary consideration.”
Speaking after the meeting, John, who is a Member of the Justice Committee said:
“I welcome the comments of Citizens Advice Scotland who have first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by people seeking legal redress.
“Like them, I do not think a court of law should be the first port of call when a dispute arises. I support robust mediations systems and would like to see a greater emphasis on Alternative Dispute Resolution.
“As ever, I am keen that the remote and rural aspects of any legislation are given their due regard. Just as I don’t believe a police service is delivered by police stations, likewise real justice has to be about more than the number of courts we have. I therefore support peripatetic Sheriffs, dispensing civil justice in our communities, from village halls or council offices rather than having the citizen travel for a valuable service. This will require a significant change of attitude from the legal establishment; however, with a will, it can be achieved.”
John also added his support to the Law Society of Scotland’s call to retain Honorary Sheriffs, echoing Sheriff Lindsay Wood who at Tuesday’s Justice Committee meeting said ‘leave them be’.
Commenting on Honorary Sheriffs he said:
“We are advised that the proposal to abolish Honorary Sheriffs has no financial implications and it’s not clear to me how this could be the case.
“For instance, one week in four a Sheriff from Paisley covers Campbeltown Sheriff Court. That does not mean that there is no work for a Sheriff to deal with in the intervening three weeks, however, in that instance, as elsewhere, that work is done by Honorary Sheriffs.
“There’s some way to go with the scrutiny of this legislation and, as ever, I will be vigilant to ensure that this legislation enhances access to civil justice in the Highlands and Islands.”