Report criticises Rothesay court closure plan

Rothesay Sheriff Court currently sits each Monday in Argyll and Bute Council's premises at Eaglesham House (above) - but the Scottish Courts Service wants to close the court altogether to trim its budget by just �6,000.
Rothesay Sheriff Court currently sits each Monday in Argyll and Bute Council's premises at Eaglesham House (above) - but the Scottish Courts Service wants to close the court altogether to trim its budget by just �6,000.

The proposed closure of Rothesay Sheriff Court has been heavily criticised in a new report to Argyll and Bute Council.

Members of the council are being asked to endorse the authority’s proposed response to a Scottish Courts Service consultation which would see all the island’s civil and criminal court business transferred to Greenock.

The draft response was being considered by the council as this article was published.

It states: “This council strongly disagrees with the closure of Rothesay Sheriff Court and the transfer of summary business to Greenock and disputes the rationale behind this decision.”

The draft points out the impact of the weather on the island’s transport links to the mainland and highlights “serious concerns” about the practicalities of travelling to and from court on the mainland on the same ferry or bus.

It also warns of the implications for professional witnesses and police based on Bute being required to attend court on the mainland, and states that “the public need to see justice being carried out will be compromised and undermined” by local media being unable to attend and report on court cases.

The report highlights the forecast £6,000 saving from closing the court, but states that the money saved “would not justify the inevitable increased financial burden that will be incurred through payments by the court service” in areas such as witness expenses, travel costs, subsistence costs, extra childcare costs and the expense of additional police and council resources, as well as “hidden costs such as the integrity of local justice”.

The report warns that the closure of the Rothesay court would have a negative impact on the ability of council services to meet national standards on the delivery of community-based sentences, and points out that if Bute criminal cases are subsumed into the general business dealt with by Greenock Sheriff Court, rather than being heard on a specific day, it will be impossible to have an Argyll and Bute presence in court.

The report proposes turning Rothesay Sheriff Court into an annex of Greenock Sheriff Court, in the same way that the court in Lochgilphead is operated as an annex of Dunoon.

* To read teh council’s draft response in full, click on the link to the right of this article.