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See inside Scotland’s first purpose-built justice centre which opened today in Inverness

By Andrew Dixon

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Scotland's first purpose-built justice centre has opened in Inverness today.

It has allowed the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) to vacate Inverness Castle so it can be transformed into a tourist attraction.

Staff at the new justice centre will prioritise critical court business during the coronavirus outbreak as it operates as one of 10 key court hubs during these unprecedented times.

Courts have already ceased jury trials, adjourned all but essential criminal and civil hearings to reduce the need for physical attendance at court. Further moves are planned to allow custodies to appear from police stations by video link, minimising presence in court and travel.

The justice centre, which began construction near Burnett Road police station in 2017, will bring together integrated justice services under one roof to support victims, witnesses, litigants and other users, with specially designed facilities for children and vulnerable witnesses.

But SCTS advises that people should stay away from the building unless they must attend for court proceedings.

Anyone who is required to be there will be subject to strong hygiene and social distancing requirements. Although courts do not provide masks, those who must attend court are welcome to bring their own to use.

SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen said: “This is a landmark building, which, in the future, will offer Inverness the very best of facilities for court users. There is the unique opportunity for all the organisations involved to have an integrated approach to community justice services with the objective of reducing re-offending.”

Sheriff Principal of Grampian, Highland and Islands, Derek Pyle, said: “This is a milestone for Inverness and gives us so many opportunities. It will offer a new, collaborative approach, bringing together under one roof the courts and tribunals, prosecution, social work, NHS, and other third sector organisations – all providing specialist services. For now it gives us a spacious, clean and digitally enabled centre to operate our services during this coronavirus outbreak.”

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