Trials Delayed Until Summer At Dumfries Sheriff Court

Criminal trials scheduled to take place this month at Dumfries Sheriff Court have now been adjourned until the summer because of a shortage of court personnel.

Around 15 summary trials due to be heard in the coming weeks will not now proceed until May following the controversial decision to transfer trials from Dumfries and Stranraer to Ayr Sheriff Court.

The move – sanctioned by Scots justice secretary Humza Yousaf – means a sheriff, court staff and a procurator fiscal will have to travel to Ayr.

And this will result in there being insufficient staff left at Dumfries to handle criminal business there during this period – resulting in further stress being placed on victims and witnesses.

Now Finlay Carson, MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, plans to raise the issue again with the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Services after learning of the serious backlog jam.

He said: “It has appeared from the outset that this decision is flawed and simply an attempt to save money.
“It is scandalous that members of the public are now going to be seriously put out by the decision to transfer court business away from Dumfries and Stranraer to Ayr.”

Mr Carson has already questioned the move with the Scots justice secretary during a question and answer session at Holyrood last month.

The local MSP accused him of playing “Scrooge” by refusing to spend £40,000 to make the necessary Covid-19 related changes necessary to allow jury trials to continue at both Dumfries and Stranraer.

He said: “I have asked for assurances that court services will return to both courts post Covid-19 but he has not been forthcoming on that, so far.
“But there is no doubt in my mind that there should not be any erosion or centralisation of court services once this pandemic is over. “

The local MSP revealed he has been approached by a number of legal professionals in Dumfries worried about potential health risks as a result of them having to travel to Ayr to carry out their duties.

Mr Carson said: “I can fully understand their fears of putting not only their own lives at risk but also their families and colleagues. The Scottish government appears to be conveniently ignoring its own advice over travel restrictions.”

Summary cases – such as drink-driving, assaults and domestic abuse – make up the vast majority of the

vast majority of the criminal business at Dumfries.

Ranald Lindsay, a court solicitor at Dumfries, voiced his concerns over the backlog in court business.

He said: “It seems to defy logic that, in order to persist in an ill-considered scheme to save £40,000 upgrading a local court, many more cases are having to be delayed with the inevitable stress to members of the public involved, such as witnesses.
“Everyone recognises that there is a backlog of cases to be dealt with. Apart from the illogic of cutting down the number of courts able to tackle that backlog from three to one, it now seems that a new backlog is being built up amongst summary cases.”
The solicitor added: “The law has to be administered but the law which seems to be applying overwhelmingly to this situation is the law of unintended consequences.”

Latest Articles