A number of services, not just criminal trials, would be adversely effected if Stonehaven Sheriff Court was to close.
The Faculty of Solicitors of Kincardine and Deeside highlighted the range of services which would suffer when they met to discuss the issues relating to the closure of Stonehaven Sheriff Court. Interested parties were invited to the meeting including local MSPs and representatives from various Aberdeenshire Council departments.
One issue they discussed was family matters such as Social Work referrals, Permanence Orders, Adoptions and other family matters which are currently dealt with in Stonehaven Sheriff Court which has the benefit of separate waiting and consulting rooms in order that those in conflict in such matters are kept apart.
They explained that, should the Court close, these will be dealt with in Aberdeen where parties involved in such cases regularly have to wait and discuss matters with their agents in a public corridor outside the Court rooms.
They claim that the Family Court in Aberdeen quite simply does not have the capacity to deal with Stonehaven cases in addition to their own.
Another service they highlighted is Civic cases, members of the faculty explain: “Whereas, at present, individuals who wish to pursue Small Claim actions, wind up a relatives’ estate, etc. can attend at Stonehaven Sheriff Clerk’s Office and obtain swift personal advice and assistance, due to pressures at Aberdeen Sheriff Court at the moment this can only proceed on an appointment basis.
“Recently, queries by members of the public on similar matters at Aberdeen Sheriff Court have resulted in those individuals being directed to Stonehaven and Peterhead Sheriff Courts for assistance, due to lack of capacity at Aberdeen. Accused or individuals dealing with civil matters may not have access to local representation which would result in a loss of local knowledge being available to members of the public. Phone or e-mail correspondence will become the norm with a result that it will be impossible for face to face quality personal bespoke service for the individual requiring help or advice.”
Along with theses services the solicitors also expressed concern that the movement of cases to Aberdeen Sheriff Court is unrealistic as the Court already struggles to deal with the number of cases it has. Concern was expressed for the transparency of the Scottish Court’s decision to shortlist the Court for closure and also the impact the closure would have for those involved in cases as they would be forced to travel to another Court.
Those present at the meeting agreed that Stonehaven Sheriff Court should be retained and that full use should be made of the building, staff and facilities by enabling more work to be transferred there from Aberdeen. This would improve the efficiency of the Aberdeen Court and at the same time fully utilise the experience and facilities which are already in place in Stonehaven Sheriff Court.
Members of the public can still take part in the consultation over the closure of the Court to take part you can visit www.scotcourts.gov.uk or phone 0131 444 3300.