Thirty per cent of Scottish sheriff courts failing to meet six-month target for processing cases

Written by Jenni Davidson on 17 February 2017 in News

Nearly half of Scotland’s sheriff courts are taking longer to process cases than previous year

Glasgow Sheriff Court - Image credit: Daniel via Flickr

Nearly half of Scotland’s sheriff courts are taking longer to process cases than they were a year ago, new figures have revealed.

More than 30 per cent are failing to hit the 26-week target from issuing a caution or charge to reaching a verdict.

That compares to 73 per cent for the same period the previous year, with eight courts failing to get 60 per cent of cases concluded on time.


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And of Scotland’s 40 sheriff courts, 19 are taking longer to conclude cases than a year earlier.

Only two courts, Portree and Stornoway, completed all cases within the six-month period and eight courts fell below 60 per cent of cases processed within the target time limit.

The statistics, which were received in response to a parliamentary question by Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont, show, in November 2016, 69.8 per cent of cases were dealt with in time, compared to 73.24 per cent in November 2015.

The Scottish Conservatives have suggested that the delays are due to court closures, with one in five sheriff and justice of the peace courts having closed.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said: “This is another example of the SNP being warned against making a decision for a number of reasons, but blundering on anyway.

“Now it’s taking longer to get cases through court, and many will feel that’s a direct result of the SNP’s closure programme.

“This doesn’t just have an adverse impact on the staff left to sort this out, but it also creates inconvenience for witnesses and victims of crime.

“Now that the SNP has shut these courts right across the country, the least it could do is ensure those remaining have sufficient resources to see cases through to their conclusion in the target timeframe.”

However, both the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Scottish Government have stated that the delays are due to the increasing complexity of cases rather than closures.

In a recent interview with Holyrood, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: The figures from the Scottish Court and Tribunals Service show that the number of cases which are not able to proceed in court due to a lack of court time, the proportion has actually reduced...[but] what has been a challenge in the court process is the number of cases that are now going to trial has increased, so as we see more cases around domestic violence and sexual violence, with more of these going to trial, they are more complex cases and they take up more court time as a result.”

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