HC Deb 21 June 1978 vol 952 cc464-6
31 Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Lord Advocate when he next intends to visit the Glasgow Sheriff Court.

The Lord Advocate

I hope to visit Glasgow Sheriff Court in the near future.

Mr. Taylor

I am grateful for the interest that the Lord Advocate is taking in the position of the Glasgow Sheriff Court, but dues he agree that one of the most unsatisfactory aspects of the present difficult situation is the housing of witnesses for both defence and prosecution in one room, particularly in cases involving violence'? Will he be prepared to look at this point? I appreciate the steps that he is taking to improve the position for the longer term, but will he look at matters such as this in the short term?

The Lord Advocate

I am happy to respond to that. The hon. Member has raised an important issue. I have endeavoured to see that witnesses for the Crown and for the defence are accommodated in separate rooms, particularly since the hon. Gentleman raised the point on a previous occasion.

Shortage of accommodation has made this difficult in the past in certain cases. There has been some improvement in the accommodation arrangements. I hope to inspect the up-to-date position for myself when I visit Glasgow Sheriff Court soon.

Mr. Henderson

When the Lord Advocate visits Glasgow Sheriff Court, will he ask for the views of those there on the success of the policies advocated by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) in Saudi Arabia?

The Lord Advocate

I shall certainly put that question. I doubt whether I shall get an answer.

Mr. Buchanan

Will my right hon. and learned Friend say what efforts are being made to cut down the backlog of cases at the sheriff court? One of the great disadvantages of the present overcrowding in the sheriff court is the ever-increasing backlog of cases. What success is my right hon. and learned Friend having in cutting that down?

The Lord Advocate

On the last occasion I was able to tell the House that the setting up of two additional courts for sheriff and jury cases had started to make some impact. I can now tell the House that at the end of last month the backlog of sheriff and jury cases in Glasgow—that is, cases awaiting preparation—amounted to 248. This compares with 275 cases at the end of the previous month. That is a modest improvement, but none the less it is an improvement—of about 10 per cent.—and I think that it is significant.

Mr. Galbraith

When the Lord Advocate visits Glasgow Sheriff Court, will he also visit the proposed site of the new sheriff court, and then consider whether it is really wise to move the sheriff court to the south side of the river when most of the legal offices are on the north side?

The Lord Advocate

I shall certainly be glad to visit the site of the new sheriff court. However, the shortage of accommodation has been such an acute difficulty for the administration of justice that I think that any chopping and changing on merely geographical grounds would really be quite inappropriate.

Mr. Fairbairn

When the Lord Adovcate next visits Glasgow Sheriff Court, knowing the sensitivity that exists between the Glasgow Bar Association and the profession in Edinburgh, will he take the opportunity to correct the statement in The Scotsman newspaper announcing his regretted resignation, or his intention not to stand again, and saying that there were no vacancies at present on the Court of Session bench? Will he say that there is one of his own creation, and that when the General Election comes he will not recommend to the Secretary of State, or accept a recommendation from the Secretary of State, that he should fill it?

The Lord Advocate

I think that I know what the hon. and learned Gentleman means, but he has chosen a very long way to put it. I am not sure that I can answer him.