Closure of Cupar Sheriff Court would have a big impact on child welfare, the mentally ill, small businesses and even patients seeking a doctor’s appointment.
The knock-on effect was set out this week by a member of a legal practice in the town who is not actually a court lawyer, but who uses its services regularly.
Susan Duff, an associate with Steel Eldridge Stewart in the Crossgate, was speaking following the recent announcement that the court has been earmarked for closure under a review by the Scottish Court Service.
Mrs Duff said that the court dealt with various licensing matters, and its closure would create many problems.
Another concern was expressed for the self-employed and small businesses, who were the lifeblood of the area, and who often fought their own small claims actions and summary cau
She explained: “A small business, with say an unpaid bill for £3000, would face a day in court chasing up the debt, rather than just a morning in court.
‘‘If he or she is doing that, they are not earning, so who is going to be able to afford that?”
Mrs Duff also said there were the “human cases,” such as adoptions, and guardianship for someone who was mentally incapacitated.
Many of these hearings were contested, with representatives from many organisations attending.
“In an adoption, you would have the foster family and the people who want to adopt the child, their representatives, a social worker and all the experts, such as doctors and maybe even a head teacher,’’ she said.
“Many people would be called over to a big court and they would not be seen on time. It would have a knock-on effect for everybody.”
Mrs Duff is heavily involved in mental health work in which legislation is centred on a local tribunal, held at a hospital where the patient is detained.
If the case was appealed, she explained, it would be heard at the Sheriff Court where the various medical staff involved would have to be present.
She added: “If you are mentally ill and are suffering from anxiety and stress on top of your condition - and you know that if you appeal the decision, you have to go to a big Sheriff Court in a town you don’t know - are you going to proceed?”
“In child welfare hearings, if the youngster is over the age of 12, he or she has to attend and will be out of school for longer, travelling and waiting, for the hearing.”
Turning to all hearings where experts are giving evidence, Mrs Duff said, in many instances, a GP is the expert and would have to attend.
She added: “While your GP is sitting in Dundee waiting for the hearing, you won’t be able to get an appointment with your doctor.
‘‘It’s all a waste of time and a waste of money.”
She believed that the proposed changes would cost the tax payer much more because the proposals had not been thought through.
“If local people think it won’t affect them they are wrong.”