No justice! Court closure could cost £1.2 million

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THE COST implications of closing the town’s Sheriff Court and shifting work to Forfar could be over £1 million, according to a local solicitor.

The Arbroath court is under threat after the Scottish Court Service (SCS) placed it on a list of proposed closures to save cash. A consultation period into the plan ended before Christmas.

Legal professionals based in Arbroath have spoken out about any potential closure of the town’s facilities including solicitor Nick Whelan.

And he believes with the cost of maintenance and the possible relocation of the Criminal Justice Social Work Department means the move to Forfar could cost up to £1.2 million.

This is compared to the £177,000 Mr Whelan believes it would cost if Forfar was the court closing rather than Arbroath.

He explained: “It would appear that the financial implications to the capital budget of SCS in implementing the closure of Arbroath and upgrading of Forfar will be a cost of £1.2 million.

“However, if Arbroath is maintained and Forfar is closed, then the cost implications will only be £177,000 for the backlog maintenance cost.

“The SCS have confirmed that Forfar Sheriff Court currently has a backdated maintenance total of £892,651, whilst Arbroath’s amounts to £177,000.

“In addition, the SCS have recognised that they will require spending at least £113,000 to upgrade the facilities at Forfar.”

It is already believed a tenant of an annexe at Forfar Sheriff Court has been given a notice to quit as the facility will need more room to deal with the Arbroath case load.

And Mr Whelan has also raised concerns with the location of the Criminal Justice Social Work department of Angus Council.

He explained: “At present, the Criminal Justice Social Work Department employs 32 full-time members of staff between Forfar and Arbroath.

“In Arbroath, 30 of these staff members are employed, as opposed to two in Forfar.

“The implications for this department are financially significant. The department will require to relocate a large amount of staff to Forfar, and identify suitable accommodation for the staff, all of which will have significant implications for their budgets.”

This is also in addition to the cash that will need to spent to install a new fire alarm system at £45,000, the acquisition of the annexe to the court and the upgrading of the vulnerable witness suite.

A final decision on the closure of Arbroath Sheriff Court will rest with Scottish Government ministers.

It is thought a final decision could be made on the town facility and 10 other courts under threat in the late spring.