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McInnes: Drug court closure should be reversed

April 3, 2013 1:57 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

The Scottish Government must rethink its plans to scrap a crucialAlison McInnesAlison McInnes court in Fife which deals with specifically with drug offenders, according to Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP.

The Scottish Government has informed Fife Council that it will terminate funding for the Drug Court in Fife in 2013/14 after agreement could not be reached between the Scottish Government Justice Division, the Sheriff Principal and the Scottish Court Service on the future of the court. The Scottish Government proposed that funding would only be available if the council and its partners NHS Fife, Fife Police and the Scottish Court Service agreed to create a wider problem-solving court.

Ahead of a meeting tomorrow (4th April) between Fife Criminal Justice Social Work Service and representatives from the Scottish Government to discuss the decision, Ms McInnes has warned that the Drug Court is an integral part of Scotland's justice system, and its closure would be a set-back in efforts to serious drug misuse and offending in Scotland.

Commenting, Ms McInnes said:

"The Drug Court is one of many vital tools that our justice system has at its disposal. Since its initial pilot in 2002, the Fife court has dealt with hundreds of offenders, building up the kind of expertise that is critical if we are to find a long term solution to problem offending.

"I am extremely concerned at the Government's decision to cut funding and order its closure by 2014. Doing so will mean losing the continuity, flexibility and specialist knowledge that has built up over the past 11 years. The court looked to break down the link between drug use and crime in our communities, swiftly dealing with offenders with the aim of putting more young lives back on the right track.

"Putting this group of offenders back into mainstream courts seems self-defeating. Whether it means more reoffending, or less successful and targeted rehabilitation programmes, or both, the cost to society will ultimately be greater than the price of the court's funding.

"Kenny MacAskill has significantly underestimated this investment and such a short-sighted decision risks undoing a decade's good work. He should reverse the closure and instead commit to making drug courts a key part of tackling drug abuse in Scotland."

Fife Councillor Tim Brett, who was previously Chair of the Council's Social Work and Health Committee and Vice Chair of the Alcohol and Drug Partnership in Fife added:

"Having met with the Fife Drug Court's dedicated Sheriff ahead of one of the court's hearings, I know exactly what benefits their methods can bring.

"The co-ordinated and persistent approach to dealing with those individuals who have drug problems is evident through the local community. To lose it would be a huge blow to that work, and I hope the Justice Secretary will reconsider."