Anger over move to close court

Motherwell JP Court faces closure.
Motherwell JP Court faces closure.

PLANS to close a Motherwell court which deals with the area’s less serious crimes have been criticised by lawyers.

People charged with minor offences, and witnesses in trials, will have to travel to Hamilton Sheriff Court if cost-cutting proposals get the go-ahead.

Motherwell Justice of the Peace Court is one of five in Scotland earmarked for closure by the Scottish Courts Service which also plans to shut 11 sheriff courts.

A consultation paper released last week called Shaping Scotland’s Courts says the JP courts don’t have enough business to justify their existence.

However, latest figures show the number of cases dealt with at the Motherwell court - part of the Civic Centre complex - has actually risen.

The consultation paper states: “We are incurring significant costs in keeping these JP courts going with low volumes of work in buildings that offer poor faciities and a less than safe environment for court users.”

The document shows that in 2011/12 Motherwell JP Court sat on 156 days - an average of three days a week.

The number of new cases dealt with rose from 2,191 in 2010/11 to 2,548 last year.

Paul Santoni, who represents solicitors at Hamilton Sheriff Court and the associated JP courts, doubts that the sheriff court will be able to cope with the extra business.

As well as dealing with Motherwell and Hamilton JP business, it’s also proposed to transfer Lanark Sheriff Court jury trials to Hamilton.

Mr Santoni said: “Local justice centres are there for the purpose of delivering justice to local communities.

“I don’t believe the sheriff court building in Hamilton has the capability and resources to deal with all this extra business.”

Full story in this week’s Motherwell Times and Bellshill Speaker, out now.