Dec 28 2012 By Sharon Liptrott, Dumfries and Galloway Standard
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is being urged to extend a courts consultation deadline that ended a week ago.
Politicians claim they were kept in the dark over plans to stop jury trials in Stranraer while they were busy fighting proposals to close both Annan Justice of the Peace Court and Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court.
Now they want the chance to make formal responses along with the public and Dumfries and Galloway Council and to the plans for the west of the region as well.
The Scottish Court Service is planning changes to its structure to save cash.
Proposals to close the Annan and Kirkcudbright courts have met with widespread opposition, including a formal response by the local authority.
However, it has now emerged that hidden in the consultation document from the Scottish Court Service are proposals to scrap holding jury trials in Stranraer too.
Local Labour politicians are now leading demands for a deadline extension, claiming it was “not made clear that there was also a proposal to stop jury trials at Stranraer Sherriff Court”.
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “It is apparent that because the changes to Stranraer were hidden within the consultation document, many people – including the council – are only finding out about it now.”
He has written to the Scottish Courts Service and Scottish Justice Secretary Mr MacAskill to demand that the consultation deadline be extended so the council and the public can respond.
The MP said: “We will fight these proposals to stop jury trials in Stranraer. This centralisation of services by the SNP has to stop.
“The impact will be huge and I know that local solicitors are really worried. It is the thin end of the wedge.