Pencaitland resident and Councillor Shamin Akhtar says that the closure of Haddington Sheriff Court could impact on some of our most vulnerable children and families.
Councillor Shamin Akhtar, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Children’s Wellbeing and Education, has voiced concerns about the proposed closure of Haddington Sheriff Court. Below we have reproduced her views.
Shamin Akhtar writes:
I think there is real value in having a local court, sensitive to local issues and local history, where a Sheriff and lawyers acting for clients are aware of local circumstances, local conditions, local families and local concerns. This is particularly important for child welfare cases, including the granting of Child Protection Orders and also adoption and permanency cases.
I am very concerned that the closure of Haddington Sheriff Court will lead to delays in adoption and permanency cases being heard because we understand that Edinburgh Sheriff Court already has problems in meeting the timescales required in the cases that it deals with for Edinburgh. ‘The local knowledge of the officials at Haddington Sheriff Court contributes to decisions about crucial child protection issues being made promptly and effectively. I feel that the removal of these cases to Edinburgh will result in delays and additional anguish for the children and families involved.
In practical terms, it will be much more expensive for clients and staff attending court in terms of additional travel expenses, parking fees and, most critically, the loss of work time. A two-to-three hour attendance at court in Haddington could now take up the best part of a working day, if you factor in travelling and waiting time. This will have an impact on family budgets. It will also mean that social workers and other council staff will be away at court in Edinburgh when they would normally be working with other clients. It will have a knock-on effect for lots of people, especially when you consider that the Council is a really heavy user of Haddington Sheriff Court’s services – staff are in court almost every day.
The proposal to relocate the court service to Edinburgh comes at a time when East Lothian is set to have the biggest population increase of any local authority in Scotland over the next 25 years – including a 41% increase in the number of young people aged between 0 and 15 years. Our client group is growing and we need our Sheriff Court in Haddington more than ever. I really hope that this proposal is overturned because I know that moving the court to Edinburgh will have a detrimental effect on vulnerable children and young people and will worsen the service that they that they receive.
I would encourage people to voice their concerns by supporting the Courier’s campaign. Visit www.savehsc.co.uk, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or sign the local petitions and postcards before the 21st.