Inverness Sheriff questions why she is hearing Moray cases

A Sheriff has called for an explanation on why cases that would normally be heard at Elgin Sheriff Court are being transferred to Inverness.

Sheriff Margaret Neilson heard a case in her court that would have normally been dealt with in Moray – and has now sought an explanation from depute fiscal Roderick Urquhart.

The sheriff accepted that case and a later one that would have been dealt with in Portree were not the result of decisions taken by Mr Urquhart, but asked that he obtain reasons why they were being hear in Inverness when she next appears on the bench.

Her comments came after hearing a Moray case involving James Stephen, who has denied setting fire to the bedroom of his Burghead home on Forteath Street in August last year.

Mr Stephen was surprised that he had to make the 40-mile journey to Inverness, asking the sheriff on entering the dock “why am I here?” – Mr Stephen’s trial will be heard at a two-week jury sitting at Inverness starting on December 2.

Addressing Mr Urquhart, Sheriff Neilson said: “I appreciate the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) can indict cases where they choose.

“But it would be helpful if the Crown can explain. It doesn’t help the administration of justice – it also causes inconvenience for witnesses who in this case mostly all come from Aberdeen, Lossiemouth and Elgin.”

A Crown Office spokesman said: “The case against James Stephen is being heard at Inverness in accordance with an agreement between COPFS and the Scottish Court Service.”

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