stonehaven and District Community Council have objected to the proposed closure of Stonehaven Sheriff Court.
In their response the community council says that the document focuses on the desire to reduce the costs of running the court buildings. It does give some figures for the volume of work that the courts handle, but it does not give any convincing case that Stonehaven is under-utilised or that Aberdeen Court could handle the traffic currently at Stonehaven. In the council’s view, the proposal is flawed in that there is no guarantee or plan that the proposal will actually work. In building the case, the document discusses the future of the justices of the peace courts, many of which it has plans to close and bring their business into the Sherriff Court premises. However it dismisses such move in Aberdeen, simply saying that closure of Stonehaven “is a higher priority” – without any explanation. A much better of analysis of the options within the Aberdeen area should be made. The proposal talks of “deployment of sheriffs” and “use of technology” without giving any indication of how either of these changes would work. The council believe these are very spurious arguments. Until the figures are given about sheriff deployment, and for the total effect of better technologies, any proposal can not be supported. Discussing in this context the outstanding building maintenance costs is always a work of fiction, as any surveyor will tell you. All such renovations will never be done. The large figures only serve to frighten people into supporting the wrong scenarios. The council see no reason why the crowded situation and unsatisfactory accommodation in Aberdeen should not be relieved by having more days working in Stonehaven. Concentrating on the efficiences of ALL the people involved in the legal processes would yield much larger savings than closing a few perfectly satisfactory buildings.
They say that in discussing the closure of Stonehaven, and the extra travelling that will be generated, the report, has a very curious selection of the Stonehaven catchment area, apparently ignoring any of the population south of Stonehaven. The council’s understanding is that Aberdeen Court buildings are already inadequate, and Stonehaven provides many suitable facilities for the whole range of work that is presented. Indeed, it could take on some for the work that is poorly catered for in Aberdeen. They say: “For a number of people whom the Communuity Council represents, the closure of Stonehaven Court would entail considerable inconvenience, higher cost and an increase in unproductive time. “For the population as a whole, it make justice more remote, probably slower, and seen to be less fair.
“A number of members of the Communuty Council and the people they represent have business with Stonehaven Sherrif Court. For all those living south of Stonehaven, the issues of boundary may be important. However, the consultation is very unclear about where the curent boundaries are, and what changes might be proposed. Further, it is not clear whether these boundares are now rigidly adhered to.” The community council say that until such information is available, they have to conclude that the closure of Stonehaven Court has not been properly justified, and should not proceed.