News In Focus
Listening service aims to help those unsure about attending court
The first court "listening service" in Scotland – intended to help people who may be upset or uncertain about attending a court – has been launched at Edinburgh Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Court.
Established by the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service in association with the Edinburgh Interfaith Association, the new service is staffed by volunteers organised by the Association, a body made up of representatives from the different religious traditions in the city. It provides an independent confidential listening and support service to all court users.
It follows an idea first tried out in Bradford, where a similar service operates in the Magistrates and Crown Court, and is the first time the concept has been tried elsewhere in the UK.
The aim is to help people who may feel the need to talk to someone during what can be an unknown and stressful experience of attending court.
The idea to set up the service came from the Rev Andrew Letby of the Edinburgh and Forth Circuit Methodist Church, after he heard of the experiences of a couple in his congregation who had attended court for a case involving their son and felt the need for someone to talk to and help them understand a process they had never encountered before.
A group of 18 volunteers has been recruited and trained. They are present in court at busy times and can speak to court users of all faiths, or none, who wish to engage with the service. Court users can also be referred to the service by court officials and partner agencies staff. The volunteers provide a listening ear for those who want to talk; help court users find their way around the building; or refer them on to other organisations and services if appropriate.
Edinburgh Interim Sheriff Clerk Les McIntosh commented: “Having someone available to listen can be a real comfort at a stressful time and we are pleased to be leading the way by making this new service available at the court. This initiative has the full backing of Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC, and has the potential to provide a valuable service to court users, particularly those attending for the first time or those who are distressed or upset.”