Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lawyers accuse Reliance of delays to business at Paisley Sheriff Court

Can the legal profession accuse anyone of causing delays to court business ? Lawyers who use Paisley Sheriff Court seem to think so ...

BBC News reports :

Lawyers put security firm in dock

The security firm Reliance has been accused of causing delays at one of Scotland's busiest courts.

Lawyers said business at Paisley Sheriff Court was being delayed because of a lack of Reliance staff.

The Paisley Faculty of Procurators said the "time had come for the justice secretary to reassess the ability of Reliance to fulfil their contract".

However, Reliance said it was fulfilling its contractual responsibilities.

Paisley lawyers claimed there was a lack of Reliance personnel to attend dock escorts.

Charlie McCusker, dean of the Paisley Faculty of Procurators, said that despite several meetings with senior staff, the situation was not improving.

"The fact of the matter is that Reliance are unreliable and as a result court business is being delayed to the detriment of everyone," he said.

'Very frustrating'

"Senior management at Reliance come to the court users committee meetings and assure all other court users they are dealing with the problem.

"It's not a problem caused by the staff who are there, there is nothing wrong with what they do.

"It's the lack of resources, the lack of manpower."

He added: "You can't get justice on the cheap, we work at the coal face and I just find it very, very frustrating."

Freelance journalist Louden Temple, who covers the court, said sheriffs have been refusing to sit until a Reliance officer is present to accompany accused and prisoners.

Paisley Sheriff Court
Lawyers have called for a review of the contract with Reliance

"Although it's been highlighted in Paisley the problem is all over the place," he told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme.

"Sometimes it's one or two courts it affects, most days we have four or five, maybe six, courts sitting in Paisley.

"When it affects that amount of business on a daily basis it can't be good for business."

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) was responsible for managing the contract.

A spokesman for the SPS said: "The recent inspection report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons into the conditions and treatment of prisoners under escort found that the overwhelming number of escorts were managed without incident or difficulty of any kind.

"No significant concerns have been raised with the SPS escort monitor team in relation to delays in the courts in the Paisley area.

"The SPS escort monitor team will investigate any concerns raised by agencies in relation to the provision of escorting and court custody services."

In a statement Reliance said it was meeting the requirements of the work it has been contracted to do.

The company said it was only obliged to staff docks when a prisoner was appearing from custody.

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