Fife Drug Court will close next year after the Scottish Government decided it was “not viable”.
Despite efforts to save the drug court, the Government confirmed the closure in a letter to Fife Council’s head of social work Stephen Moore.
The move was condemned by local politicians, with the Government accused of having a “total disregard for locally delivered justice” by a Labour councillor.
Joe Griffin, acting deputy director of the Scottish Government’s community justice division, said: “While acknowledging the commitment and dedication of all who have contributed to the Fife Drug Court since its inception, Sheriff Principal Dunlop has informed us that…he would be better able to discharge his statutory responsibility if we were to move away from a dedicated drug court in Fife and revert to dealing with cases within the Drug Treatment and Testing Order (DTTO) regime, which is of course the way in which these cases are dealt with in the vast majority of courts across Scotland.
“Although we had initially hoped to work with partners to both improve the service provided by the drug court and build upon its good practice, we have concluded that this is not a viable option given the Sheriff Principal’s position.
“Regrettably, therefore, the decision has been taken to end funding for the Fife Drug Court pilot after March 2014.”
The drug court system was reviewed in 2006 and 2009, when it was recognised the system demonstrated good practice.
However, according to the findings, there was no evidence that drug courts led to significantly better reconviction outcomes.
Mr Griffin added: “I am hopeful that some of the areas of identified good practice will be maintained.”
Fife drug Court was set up as a pilot scheme in 2002 at Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline Sheriff Courts, with the aim of reducing drug-related offending.
The drug court involves collaboration between the Scottish Court Service, the police, NHS Fife and the council’s criminal justice service. Offenders on orders appear before the drug court sheriff on a monthly basis and their progress is reported to the court along with drug test results.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Willie Rennie said local communities had been let down by the decision.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said: “The SNP’s justice minister Roseanna Cunningham has let down communities in Fife struggling in the battle against drugs.
“Her speedy acceptance of this specialist court’s closure is deeply dis-appointing. I will be watching closely to ensure the gains made in recent years are not lost through this decision.”
Labour MSP Claire Baker said she was “bitterly disappointed” at the news.
She said: “It is unclear how the significant gap caused by the closure of the drug court will be dealt with and I am concerned that this will only add further pressures on to other agencies working with those with addiction problems.”
Dougie Dunlop, the council’s head of children’s services and criminal justice, said: “Our commitment to ensuring positive outcomes and the development of good practice remains as we move forward and operate under the DTTO.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Legislation stipulates that the drug court cannot continue without the support of the sheriff principal and he has advised us that he will be better able to dispose his statutory responsibility and ensure the efficient disposal of court business if we move away from a dedicated drug court in Fife.
“Fife will revert to dealing with cases within the DTTO regime.”