BREAKING NEWS: Proposals to axe Sheriff Court

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THE DOORS of Arbroath Sheriff Court look likely to close if proposals by the Scottish Court Service published in a consultation document today (Friday) get the green light.

The service is looking to reduce the number of sheriff courts across the country and Arbroath is one of the facilities they are proposing to close.

It is thought all cases that would usually be held in the town would transfer to Forfar Sheriff Court.

And local MP Mike Weir has reacted to the proposals by saying it could have a significant impact on the town.

And he also urged anybody connected with the court to take part in the consultation.

He said: “The original proposal would have seen much of the business from Arbroath transferred to Dundee and Forfar Sheriff Court.

“That would have left Angus with little or no legal services. It is absolutely vital that such services are retained within Angus.

“Whilst the revised proposal does seem to accept the need to retain a full range of services within the county, the proposed closure of Arbroath Sheriff Court could have a significant impact on the town and it is important that we have a clear idea of how the town and business would be affected.

“The issue of access to services goes further than the town itself, since the court currently also serves Montrose, Carnoustie and Monifieth, raising serious issues of access to the courts.

“I would urge everyone to fully consider the impact of the proposals and to make their views known during the consultation process.”

And Angus South MSP Graeme Dey has also raised his concerns.

He said: “Ideally I would want to see Arbroath retained.

“The existence of the court in the town clearly brings economic benefit, and jobs could potentially be under threat because of these proposals.

“I am entirely aware, however, of the feelings many High Street shopkeepers and members of the public have in relation to the impact of court users gathering outside the building. It is a fact that older people in particular feel intimidated at times.

“From a general Angus perspective, at first glance the proposals contained in the consultation document are an improvement on what was first mooted, as the initial indications were that Forfar might be closed and Arbroath would operate on a much diminished basis.

“Mike Weir MP and I have already met with the legal fraternity and now there are some concrete proposals to be looked at we will be meeting again late next week.

“We need to consider not only the potential impact on court-related employment in Arbroath, but also how it will affect the delivery of justice in the town and the surrounding areas.”

Meanwhile Eric McQueen, chief executive of the Scottish Court Service defended the closure plans.

He explained: “We have to provide a court structure that provides access to justice for the people of Scotland, along with the facilities and services which they have a right to expect.

“That structure has to reflect the planned reforms to the justice system and at the same time be affordable in the long term. We already know the status quo is not an option.

“We accept that having fewer court buildings, as proposed, will impact on travel distances for some people and the consultation paper sets out the likely impact of the proposed changes.

“For most people, attending court is a rare experience and future court services will seek to reduce this requirement through greater use of technology and online services.”

The consultation period on the proposal will run until Friday, December 21 and those wishing to respond should visit www.scotcourts.gov.uk/consultations/index.asp.

Check back later for more reaction on the proposals to axe Arbroath Sheriff Court.