Report claims courts are feeling strain

Falkirk Sheriff Court
Falkirk Sheriff Court
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A new report states the Scottish sheriff court system – including Falkirk – is under increasing pressure.

Audit Scotland claims a reduction in budgets and more complex cases are having an adverse effect on the country’s sheriff courts.

According to the report, around 88,000 people face prosecution in the sheriff court system every year, while thousands more experience the system as victims, witnesses, prosecutors, defence agents, court staff and the judiciary.

The estimated annual cost of prosecuting sheriff courts cases is over £200 million.

Almost half of court appearances did not proceed as planned in 2014/15, with an estimated £10 million spent on cases repeating stages unnecessarily.

Audit Scotland also found fewer cases are concluding within the 26-week performance target, the average time for cases to conclude has increased and a greater proportion of cases are going to trial.

Caroline Gardner, auditor general for Scotland, said: “Scotland’s sheriff courts are an important part of our justice system.

“Like many parts of the public sector, the sheriff court system is facing falling budgets.

“Together with an increasing focus on cases which are more complex, this is putting pressure on the system as a whole.

“To deal with this, all the bodies involved in our sheriff court system must continue to develop how they work together, both nationally and locally.”