I AM alarmed at the response of the Scottish Court Service to Law Society concerns about how sheriff courts will cope with civil justice reform and the Scottish Court Service's own recommendations in respect of court structure changes (Letters, The Herald, May 30).

Such changes would be challenging enough in a sheriff court system that was working effectively and efficiently. However, experience as a police officer and justice campaigner, together with information gleaned in discussions with those working within the system, convinces me that these plans would be implemented in a system that is arguably close to meltdown in some areas.

My research leads me to the conclusion that among other things; unrealistic plea bargaining is leading to the pen being put through hundreds of cases; fiscal fines are being used inappropriately; waiting times are being manipulated by calling cases and then adjourning them in a similar way to the NHS waiting times scandal; witnesses and jurors are turning up at court only to be sent home because some aspect of their case is not ready; information previously in the hands of court officials which would allow witnesses to be countermanded is not being passed on until the witnesses are in court; ineffective precognition of witnesses is leading to their turning up at court unable or unwilling to give reliable evidence or speak to the testimony already passed onto the police or procurator fiscal and unrealistic pleas are being accepted to save court time.

Loading article content

One worrying consequence of this inefficiency is an apparent increasing reluctance by people to identify themselves as witnesses again.

My challenge to the Scottish Court Service is to publish the statistics that prove my fears to be groundless. If change takes place without a detailed understanding of current workloads and their severe impact on service delivery then the Scottish Court Service will have irreparably damaged our justice system in the cause of political expediency.

Iain A J McKie,

27 Donnini Court,

South Beach Road,

Ayr.