Sep 28 2012 by Colin Rutherford, Kilmarnock Standard
The High Court would no longer sit in Kilmarnock under proposals being considered by the Scottish Court Service.
The shake-up of Scotland’s courts would also see the Irvine Justice of the Peace Court transferred to Kilmarnock.
The changes are included in a consultation document, ‘Shaping Scotland’s court service’, launched by Lord Gill, the Lord President of the Court of Session.
Consultation closes at noon on December 21.
The reform is prompted by the budget cuts hitting the country’s courts and other public services.
The operating budget for Scotland’s courts is set to fall by 20 per cent in real terms by 2014/15, compared with 2010/11.
And the services capital budget – used to fund buildings and technology – will be affected even more harshly, falling to £4 million in 2014/15 from £20.3 million in 2010/11.
The annual running costs of the Irvine court, which sits 182 days a year and has no full-time staff, are £62,000.
The move to Kilmarnock would, however, involve restructuring costs of around £9000.
“Carrying on as before is simply not an option,” the report states.
Other factors include the unsuitability of some JP courts which “continue to sit in accommodation that is not fit for purpose by modern standards”.
Irvine JP court, in particular, is one which is judged to have “significant issues of physical access”.
The consultation document estimates that the closure of Irvine and another four JP courts would deliver recurring savings of £500,000 in running costs and depreciation.
The other major local change outlined in the document is the withdrawal of the High Court circuit from Kilmarnock.
At present the circuit involves High Court sittings at eight sheriff courts across the country in addition to permanent courts in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
If approved, the recommendations would mean that routine High Court business would be restricted to the three cities.
As well as cost reasons, the justification for the move is related to changes in the way the High Court operates.
The system now used for allocating cases means that it is unlikely that trials dealt with at Kilmarnock will actually relate to the local area.
The changes go hand-in-hand with a Scottish Government initiative which calls for a new post of summary sheriff, below the rank of sheriff.