Lawyers slam ‘disgraceful’ delays in court custody services

The Law Society said contractor GeoAmey was providing an inadequate level of service causing concern around the country.

Lawyers slam ‘disgraceful’ delays in court custody services

Lawyers are calling for swift action to resolve “disgraceful” delays in court custody services.

Staffing issues at the prisoner escort service led to jury trials at island sheriff courts being moved to mainland Scotland earlier this week.

The Law Society said contractor GeoAmey was providing an inadequate level of service with issues around the country.

The professional body, which represents 12,000 solicitors, said this is causing significant delays in criminal proceedings.

Law Society president Sheila Webster said: “We’ve been receiving disturbing and unacceptable reports of delays and disruption in courts across Scotland for quite some time, and it appears that the problems are getting worse with no end in sight.

“Criminal solicitors have described the level of service being provided by GeoAmey as disgraceful, with hours-long delays commonplace.

“Whatever the cause of these disruptions, a solution must be found urgently so the provision of criminal justice can return to normal.

“These major-scale delays are undermining access to justice and causing significant hardship for solicitors and everyone else interacting with our criminal justice system.

“We’re particularly concerned at the total upheaval caused to solemn matters in the Grampian, Highland and Islands Sheriffdom.

“Scotland’s local sheriff courts are a fundamental part of our criminal justice system, and they must not be sidelined by failures such as those we’re currently seeing.”

A GeoAmey spokesman said: “We are having ongoing positive discussions with all stakeholder partners on how to fulfil our shared ambition to improve the service to the courts and broader judicial system.

“We fully accept that the challenging labour market throughout the UK has had an impact on our recruitment and staff retention, and this is undoubtedly a material factor in the delays to courts.

“We have, and continue to, apologise for the impact that this is having.

“The majority of all escorts take place on time and without incident, but nonetheless we will continue to strive to improve the service we provide.

“The challenges that we face are only a part of other system-related issues across the judicial sector that need to be addressed in partnership if a smooth and efficient court service is to be delivered, and we are committed to working with our partners to achieve this commonly held objective.”

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