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Fife Drug Court to close for lack of space

26 November 2013

The specialist court in Fife that deals with drug related offences is to close at the end of this week, the Herald reports today.

One of two such courts in Scotland, the Fife Drug Court was set up in 2002 with the aim of reducing drug-related crime among repeat offenders aged 21 and over by tackling their addiction. Rather than custodial sentences, offenders are given drug treatment and testing orders. The other court has been running in Glasgow since 2001.

A paper currently before Holyrood's Justice Committee reveals that the Sheriff Principal of Tayside, Central & Fife, Alastair Dunlop QC, "believes that for a  number of reasons, issues including court capacity, there is no longer a strong case for continuing the Fife Drugs Court in its current form".

Fife is about to lose one of its three sheriff courts under the Scottish Court Service restructuring programme, with cases from Cupar being transferred to Dundee, though the drug court sits at the other courts in Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline. However the sheriff principal believes that taking all the pending changes in the courts into account, he will be "better able to discharge his statutory responsibility" if there is no dedicated drugs court.

Questions have been asked in the past about the success of the drug courts, as rates of reoffending have remained high among those they deal with, but supporters of the schemes maintain that their benefit is their ability to monitor offenders' behaviour and drug use, and offer a range of treatments. Previous studies have found that they had some success in reducing both drug use and offending behaviour.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Fife will revert to dealing with cases within the drug treatment and testing order regime, which is the way in which these cases are dealt with in the vast majority of courts across Scotland."

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