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05 November 2014
Domestic abuse court to be extended

Domestic abuse court to be extended

A domestic abuse court piloted in parts of Edinburgh is to be rolled out across the rest of the city and further afield.

A pilot court was set up at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in February 2012 to deal with domestic abuse cases from the city’s south and east.

The Scottish Court Service (SCS) has now confirmed that its scope will be extended to take in the rest of the city of Edinburgh as well as Midlothian.

It comes after prosecutors revealed a 35 per cent increase in domestic abuse charges across Scotland in the last year.

Specialist prosecutors, police liaison officers, advocacy workers and Sheriffs operate out of the Edinburgh court, which aims to start trials within eight weeks of an accused's first appearance.

Concerns continue to be raised over backlogs encountered in dealing with cases at Glasgow’s Domestic Abuse Court with the Crown’s lead on domestic abuse telling Holyrood last month that returning to eight weeks in Scotland’s largest city is unlikely in the short term.

“The Domestic Abuse court will extend its parameters in February 2015 to encompass the city of Edinburgh and Midlothian,” said a statement issued by SCS. 

“The waiting period target for domestic abuse trials is eight weeks, and the anticipated demand for courtroom availability is factored in. 

“The intention is to ensure that crimes of this nature are prioritised in order to reduce the impact on families affected.”

It came as SCS chief executive Eric McQueen responded to reports that Edinburgh Sheriff Court is “bursting at the seams”.

Last week, a long-serving sheriff was quoted as claiming the court is in “crisis” as a consequence of “gross overloading” with cases from other areas.  

“While I can understand that ‘courts in control’ does not make the headlines, that is the true position,” said McQueen. “Any suggestion that Edinburgh does not have physical court capacity to deal with court business is simply wrong.”

The SCS is in “no doubt” that the physical court capacity exists to cope with an increased volume of business brought about by an increase in the likes of sexual, domestic abuse and road traffic offences, McQueen said.

“Additional judiciary, court staff and fiscal staff have been deployed to use the court capacity available, ensuring the additional volume of business is dealt with effectively by the courts,” he added. 

"While associations have been made with court closures, this simply muddies the water. As we confirmed to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, the closures amount to less that 5 per cent of overall court business and did not reduce judicial or court staff. 

"Our business is demand driven and when demand changes we change our approach. We have increased judicial and staff resources so that we can use the court capacity available to us to best effect. Moreover, the additional judicial, court and fiscal staff that are now being deployed to deal with the additional business volumes would have been required even if no court had closed.”

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