Stonehaven Court earmarked for closure

Stonehaven Sheriff Court has been identified by the Scottish Courts service (SCS) as a potential site for closure as they carry out a consultation into the court structure in Scotland.

In a document which has been prepared as part of the consultation, one of the suggestions is that the 49 current Sheriff courts which operate in Scotland are reduced to fourteen.

The 14 courts would be: Edinburgh, Livingston, Paisley, Dumbarton, Kilmarnock, Airdrie, Hamilton, Ayr, Dundee, Falkirk, Dunfermline, Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow.

Therefore the business of Stonehaven Sheriff court would be carried out in Aberdeen.

In the report it cites two reasons for closing courts and consolidating the business to other locations.

The report states: “A number of courts sit relatively infrequently, are within reasonable travelling distance of another court or have small population settlements within the sheriff court district.

The idea was based on identifying courts that were below two key tipping points:

(a) those sitting three days per week or less (insufficient business volume); or

(b) those in a settlement with 20,000 or less population that is within 20 miles of

another court (insufficient distance).

“The following 20 courts fall into one of these categories and could therefore be

considered for closure, subject to the necessary statutory approval:

- Insufficient Business Volume: Dornoch, Duns, Kirkcudbright, Tain, Peebles,

Rothesay, Annan JP, Coatbridge JP, Cumbernauld JP, Kirkcaldy JP, Irvine JP, and

Lochgilphead.

- Insufficient Distance: Alloa, Cupar, Dingwall, Forfar, Haddington, Lanark,

Selkirk, and Stonehaven.”

It was announced in December that a review was set to be carried out into the structure of courts in Scotland and at the time it was confirmed by the SCS that Stonehaven sheriff court was “at risk” of closure.

At the time, the suggestion of the court being closed was criticised by the local community. One court worker said: “It means our local identity is being eroded because Stonehaven Sheriff Court is a big part of Stonehaven.”

North-east MSP Alex Johnstone, who lives in the town, said it would be an “extreme disappointment” if the court was to be closed.

The recent document is just a consultation and in it the SCS stresses that no decision has been made and consultation into how the SCS can cut costs is ongoing.

The Scottish Court Service is set to lose a massive £52.3 million from its capital budgets over the next four years, and therefore has to make cuts accordingly.

The consultation into the future of the Scottish courts is ongoing and any proposal to close a court will require a full public consultation to be undertaken and ultimately, a decision by the Scottish Parliament.

Stonehaven Sheriff court is the only court in Aberdeenshire south of Aberdeen, serves Kincardine, the Mearns and Deeside and deals with thousands of cases each year.