ONE of Scotland's pioneering drug courts set up more than a decade ago to combat addiction-fuelled crime is to close.

Fife Drug Court, which sits at Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline sheriff courts, will hear cases for the last time on Friday.

Its closure comes after the sheriff principal for the district raised concerns there was not sufficient court capacity in the area for the dedicated service.

Fife will lose its sheriff court in Cupar under the Scottish Government programme to close 10 sheriff courts in the country - a move that will mean the remaining courts will have to deal with more cases.

Details about the closure of the Fife drug court emerged in a paper to MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's justice committee, which meets today.

The paper said: "The sheriff principal believes that, for a number of reasons, issues including court capacity, there is no longer a strong case for continuing the Fife Drugs Court in its current form."

It added: "The sheriff principal for Tayside, Central and Fife, believes he will be better able to discharge his statutory responsibility if we move away from a dedicated drugs court. It is not possible to continue a drugs court in Fife without the support of the sheriff principal."

Fife drug court opened in 2002, a year after Scotland's first drug court was set up in Glasgow.

Drug courts, which were first established in America in the late 1980s, are presided over by a dedicated sheriff and staffed by a multi-agency team, including medics, social workers and drug counsellors, who assess and supervise the offenders to help them get off drugs.

The courts pioneered drug treatment and testing orders, in which offenders are supervised in the community and regularly tested for drugs.

Anyone who breaches the order can be sent to prison. Drug treatment and testing orders were later introduced across other courts in Scotland as an alternative to custody.

Claire Baker, Scottish Labour MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, criticised the imminent closure.

She said: "I am not sure the communities I represent who live with the consequences of drug-related crime would agree there is no demand for this type of justice.

"Drug courts were introduced to bring a focus to the misery caused by drugs, aimed at stopping the cycle of drug abuse and crime, and this is clearly a backwards step driven by cost rather than need."

A review of the service in 2010 found the strength of the Fife court was its monitoring of offenders' behaviour and drug use and the treatments it offered.

However, it also found rates of reoffending remained high at both drug courts, with 70% of offenders committing further crimes within a year, and 82% reoffending within two years.

A spokeswoman for the Judicial Office For Scotland said: "Taking into account all relevant factors, including court capacity and the significant change programme in contemplation [the sheriff principal] decided he would be better able to discharge his statutory responsibility if we were to move away from a dedicated drug court in Fife."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Fife would stop operating the drug court on November 29.

She added: "The sheriff principal advised us that, due to court capacity issues, he is no longer able to run a drug court in Fife. The legislation stipulates the drug court cannot continue without the support of the sheriff principal.

"Fife will revert to dealing with cases within the drug treatment and testing order regime, which is the way in which these cases are dealt with in the vast majority of courts across Scotland.

"We will work with partners in Fife to ensure the continuation of positive outcomes in these cases."

The Glasgow Drug Court will continue to operate as normal.