HC Deb 19 July 1978 vol 954 cc533-4
33. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Lord Advocate when he last paid an official visit to the Glasgow sheriff court.

The Lord Advocate

I visited Glasgow sheriff court on 14th July 1978.

Mr. Taylor

Is the Lord Advocate satisfied with the progress made in improving conditions in the sheriff court? Conditions have been appalling in recent times. In particular, can he say whether progress has been made in providing separate accommodation for witnesses for the defence and witnesses for the prosecution? Also, has progress been made on dealing with the delays in the court?

The Lord Advocate

On the first matter, I have already indicated the pro- vision of two additional sheriff and jury courts. This has been of great assistance from the point of view of delay and better allocation of accommodation. However, it would be wrong to conceal the fact that the problem of accommodation is very acute in Glasgow sheriff court, and I cannot really hold out any prospect of being able to be certain that witnesses for the prosecution and defence will be kept in separate accommodation as long as the present stringent accommodation continues.

There are about 60 police officers who assist with this problem in the court buildings in Glasgow. They have the problem very much in mind and they do what they can within the limits of the existing accommodation.

On the point about delay, I am happy to tell the House that the number of cases waiting but not yet ready for preparation was down from 248 in May to 230 in June. There are indications that there is also a drop at the other end of the system—the cases about to go to trial. At the same time, I would not conceal that when one gets on with the preparation of cases there is obviously a bulge which must work its way through.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Has my right hon. and learned Friend had any representations that divorce cases should be heard in the Glasgow sheriff court, since there is a great deal of disquiet about taking High Court divorce action? Can he answer the question that is being asked widely in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland—why is it that Princess Margaret can get a divorce for £18 when she has considerable assets, while ordinary citizens in Scotland have to pay £400 or £500 for a divorce in the High Court?

The Lord Advocate

I have had no such representations, but I stress that I have already undertaken to inquire into the cost of divorce. I have made arrangements for the information to be obtained within the next few months.

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