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SCS considers Highland justice centre

13 May 2013

A new justice centre for the Highlands, based in the Inverness area, is understood to be the subject of a feasibility study by Scottish Court Service.

SCS chief executive Eric McQueen has written to David Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, to say that work has begun on the project.

The aim would be to replace the current sheriff courts in Inverness and Dingwall. Under the SCS court restructuring proposals now approved by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, Dingwall would close with business being transferred to Inverness, 14 miles away. SCS confirmed its proposal despite representations that Inverness Sheriff Court, which is also due to take in all sheriff and jury business for the Highland area as well as specialised civil cases, is already operating close to capacity, with longer times for cases to be heard than in Dingwall.

A purpose built justice centre could operate in the same way as the new complex in Livingston, which includes police, procurator fiscal’s office and social work services as well as a modern sheriff court that replaced the former court in Linlithgow. The Scottish Government has held this up as a model for possible future centres, as did SCS in its final report on its proposals.

However SCS has a drastically reduced capital spending budget over the next few years, which was a principal driver for the court restructuring programme in the first place.

Scottish Prison Service is currently searching for a site for a replacement for Inverness’s Porterfield Prison.

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