Plans by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service to move sheriff and jury trials from Dumfries and Stranraer Sheriff Courts to Ayr Sheriff court must be reassessed as a matter of priority, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.
The reason behind the move has been stated as the £40,000 cost to create covid-safe environments in the two sheriff courts for juries, however, Colin Smyth agrees with local solicitors, who have raised concerns about the numbers of people required to travel to Ayr, which is currently under level 4 restrictions, for days at a time, to take part in trials.
Colin Smyth said: “Plans by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service to move sheriff and jury trials from Dumfries and Stranraer Sheriff Courts to Ayr Sheriff Court are very concerning and they must be reassessed as a matter of urgency.
“I have written to the service and the Justice Secretary to ask for more details but the idea of dozens of people – witnesses, the jury themselves, police and legal teams – being forced to travel up and down to Ayr, for a number of consecutive days, is unthinkable in the current climate.
“Many people would need to use public transport and the costs involved in transporting everyone needed to appear in court would be huge.
“We have been repeatedly told by the Scottish Government that travelling between different level areas should be discouraged and even though this would be an essential reason for travel, it sounds very irresponsible to make these changes and risk exposing dozens of people to Covid-19, rather than spending a sum of money to make the sheriff courts in Dumfries and Stranraer safe.”