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Builders court trouble as sheriff sympathises with solicitor's noise complaint at Inverness Justice Centre

By Alasdair Fraser

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Inverness Justice Centre. Picture: Gary Anthony.
Inverness Justice Centre. Picture: Gary Anthony.

A solicitor took a critical swipe at the multimillion-pound Inverness Justice Centre claiming it was “impossible” for him to do his work properly.

John MacColl, senior partner with Inverness firm Craig Wood Solicitors, earned support from a sheriff after complaining of workmen’s “loud banging.”

Tradesmen have been carrying out repairs on the award-winning centre for months. The entrance roof has been leaking and, in strong winds, a constant whistling is heard from the glass frontage.

Mr MacColl said he tried in vain to find a quiet corner to talk with a client, but current guidance is to avoid holding consultations in the building.

He added that the two interview rooms for solicitors were unavailable.

Mr MacColl said lawyers were not able to do consultations outside the building following a Court of Appeal ruling in a Paisley case, adding: “This building has been trumpeted as state-of-the-art, but there are leaks and hazard warning signs all over the place. It leaves me with nowhere to go. It is pretty impossible.”

Building firm Robertson have dealt with numerous “snagging” issues since it opened in March.

Sheriff Margaret Neilson sympathised with Mr MacColl and left the bench to consult with senior court management. On her return, the loud banging had stopped.

“I am not sure why work is going on in the court’s sitting hours,” she said.

Robertson were asked for comment, but passed the query to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, whose spokesman said: “Snagging is a standard process with a new building and would normally be dealt with in the first few weeks of occupation. This has not been possible due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID crisis, however the process is now nearly complete.

“Contractors were working on the entrance to the building which inevitably causes noise.When managers were made aware of the issue, the work was stopped and will be completed out of office hours.

“Some interview rooms are unavailable for consultations as they are too small for physical distancing requirements. However, other rooms are made available on request and there is ample space in what is a very large building that presently has a much reduced footfall due to COVID restrictions. A full risk assessment has been carried out on the building and is regularly updated.

“There is no edict preventing consultations within a court building. The Lord President has issued guidance on the matter of consultations which states that everyone should ‘avoid having client consultations on court premises – these should occur outwith the building wherever possible’.

“The current Guidance for SCTS court and tribunal users during Coronavirus states: ‘Minimising face to face meetings within court buildings reduces the risk of transmission. Where possible consultations should take place outwith the court estate. However it is acknowledged there may be occasions where it is not possible to consult or take instructions on a particular matter in advance of the day of a court hearing. Where client instruction or consultation is required during a court hearing an adjournment can be sought. Where it is required prior to a court hearing we will do our best during this period to facilitate local arrangements, using currently unoccupied accommodation.’”

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