The first court Listening Service in Scotland – intended to help people who may be upset or uncertain about attending a court – has been launched at Edinburgh Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Court.
The Listening Service has been established by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service in association with the Edinburgh Interfaith Association. It is staffed by volunteers organised by the Association, a body made up of representatives from the different religious traditions in the city. The initiative provides an independent confidential listening and support service to all court users.
The Edinburgh service is only the second in the UK taking up an idea first established in Bradford where a similar service is operating in the Magistrates and Crown Court.
The concept is to help people who may feel the need to talk to someone during what can be an unknown and stressful experience of attending court.
The idea to set up the service came from the Rev Andrew Letby of the Edinburgh and Forth Circuit Methodist Church after he heard of the experiences of a couple in his congregation who had attended court for a case involving their son and felt the need for someone to talk to and help them understand a process they had never encountered before.
A group of 18 volunteers has been recruited and trained for the new service. They are present in court at busy times and can speak to court users of all faiths - or none - who wish to engage with the service. Court users can also be referred to the service by court officials and partner agencies staff. The volunteers provide a listening ear for those who want to talk; help court users find their way around the building; or refer them on to other organisations and services if appropriate.
Welcoming the initiative Edinburgh Interim Sheriff Clerk Les McIntosh said: “Having someone available to listen can be a real comfort at a stressful time and we are pleased to be leading the way by making this new service available at the court. This initiative has the full backing of Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen, QC, and has the potential to provide a valuable service to court users, particularly those attending for the first time or those who are distressed or upset.”