Stonehaven and District Community Council are calling on locals to join a campaign to save Stonehaven Sheriff Court.
Speaking at this month’s community Council meeting, Community Councillors expressed their concerns over the possible closure of the Court and discussed ways to stop the plans.
One Community Councillor said: “I think the people of Stonehaven should get behind a campaign to maintain the Court. It is a sign of law and order and we have got to keep it going.”
Community Councillors expressed frustration at the Scottish Court Services decision to identify Stonehaven Sheriff Court for closure with some expressing concerns that the only thing they were thinking about was how much money could be made from the building, not about the impact it will have on the justice system.
Local Councillors supported the Community Councillors plans to try and rally residents into action.
Councillor Graeme Clark said: “ I am against it closing, I think this is a County Town and it needs the Sheriff Court. It covers a large area and for people having to go to Aberdeen is too much.”
Councillor Wendy Agnew said: “I will fight with every fibre in my being to save the Sheriff Court.”
It was decided that the best way to save the Court was to show the SCS how strongly the Town felt about the keeping the Sheriff Court running.
They decided that with a number of Courts facing closure, Stonehaven had to do something to stand-out next to other places who may just accept the decision.
Concerns were expressed that some people would not be interested in the Court as they saw it as simply a place for crime. However, the Community Council want to express the importance of the Court for Civil cases such as sorting out an estate.
They also wish to get their message outwith the boundaries of Stonehaven as the Sheriff Court covers a very large area. Community Councillors are looking into contacting other Community Council’s in the area to get them to join the campaign.
At the next meeting Stonehaven and District Community Councillors are going to put their own reply into the consultation, however in the meantime they are encouraging residents in the local area to submit their own views.
One Community Councillor said: “We have to do this, we have to come together and save our Court.”
Also attending the Community Council meeting was Inspector Stuart Ednie of Grampian Police who reassured those at the meeting that as far as he was aware, there were no plans to close Stonehaven Police Station should the Sheriff Court close.
However this was met with cynicism from the public gallery as one member of the public asked how the SCS could sell the Court Building with the Police station still operational.
Also concerned about the potential court closure is local solicitor Denis Daun who wants the people of Stonehaven and surrounding area to think about how this closure could have an impact on themselves and the town.
Mr Daun said along with the main concerns about the closure he also stressed that it would mean anyone requiring criminal legal aid will need to go to Aberdeen to see a solicitor as firms in Stonehaven will not survive. He also said the Sheriff Clerk’s office would go, meaning that anyone wanting assistance on an sorting out an estate, for example, will have to travel to Aberdeen.
Mr Daun is concerned that Aberdeen will not manage to cope as at present they are fixing trials for April next year, whereas Stonehaven is fixing trials for December. He stressed that memory of witnesses and complainants are incredibly important and having to wait so long could interfere with cases.
He said there’s less chance of cases being publicised locally meaning people in the town won’t know what’s going on in their town.
Mr Daun is urging people to contact their MSP or the SCS and says the more people against the closure, the better.