Courts strike ‘forced police to cut arrests’

Pickets at the Sheriff Court and Crown Office. Picture: HeMedia
Pickets at the Sheriff Court and Crown Office. Picture: HeMedia
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A STRIKE by court staff forced police across Edinburgh and the Lothians to arrest fewer people than normal, it has emerged.

The number of people appearing before Edinburgh Sheriff Court was significantly lower than usual with just 47 yesterday. This compares with between 70 and 90 on a regular Monday, typically the busiest day of the court week.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union had downed tools across Scotland in the latest in a series of rolling strikes over pay.

It has been claimed that Police Scotland decided against holding some accused in custody as a way of minimising the disruption caused by the industrial action.

Edinburgh-based solicitor Paul Dunne said the numbers were “surprisingly low” and said there had been disruption at the courts due to closures and adjournments.

But while police didn’t directly deny a change in arrest policy, they said that no decisions were taken that could potentially harm the community.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “It’s clearly important for Police Scotland to work with its partners in the justice system to ensure that planning is in place so that people in custody are managed appropriately and that arrangements are in place to ensure that business continues effectively.

“All decisions made about custodial status were based on the Lord Advocate’s guidelines and ensures there was no potential for risk or harm to the community.”

Limited services were being offered at some courts but emergency planning with partner agencies meant no cases were lost, according to a spokesperson for the Scottish Courts Service (SCS).

The spokesperson said: “No courts are closed although some business has been adjourned to allow essential business to proceed in the Supreme Courts, Sheriff Courts and Justice of the Peace Courts.

“Some courts are offering a limited service and there is no public counter service being provided at Stornoway, Glasgow, Greenock, Kilmarnock, Airdrie, Ayr, Lanark and Alloa.

“As part of our contingency planning with justice partners, some routine civil and criminal business was adjourned in advance of Monday to ensure that all essential business could be dealt with.”

The strikes come as a number of smaller courts are expected to close this week as part of a raft of cost-cutting measures.

Among those slated to close its doors is Haddington Sheriff Court, in East Lothian, which has doled out justice for more than 100 years.

Locals hosted demonstrations against the closure and have organised a public meeting next week to campaign for its transformation into a Summary Sheriff Court.

From Friday, January 30, all the business from Haddington Sheriff Court will be moved to Edinburgh Sheriff Court.