Bid to convert police HQ into new justice hub

A former top cop is calling for the police station at Wilton Hill to be used as the Borders’ new justice hub.

Ex-Detective Chief Superintendent Watson McAteer told the Hawick News this week that the building is purpose built and that it makes perfect sense to house any centralised court facilities there.

Since June 2013 the Scottish Court Service and Scottish Borders Council have been engaged in a feasibility study looking into the provision of integrated justice services for the Scottish Borders.

In January 2015 courts at Duns and Peebles will close leaving only Jedburgh and Selkirk to service the region. And with the future of those two facilities currently uncertain, Mr McAteer says Hawick is the best option.

A former Lothian and Borders Criminal Investigation Department chief, Mr McAteer said: “If a justice centre is being established in the Borders then Hawick is the logical and obvious choice.

“The former police HQ already has the specialist equipment and accommodation required to fully support a multi-agency facility.

“Scottish Borders Council must support Hawick and provide a much-needed boost with the prospect of new jobs and business for local contractors and retailers.”

The Wilton Hill building was opened in the 1960s and in 2011 housed more than 80 staff but following redundancies and redeployment this number has dropped to around 30.

Mr McAteer added: “It’s not difficult to imagine a centralist outcome, and if that turns out to be a location in Gala or nearby, that will be a further example of Hawick’s long term development and future being placed at risk.

“There is a sizeable three-storey building in Wilton Hill that would, in my opinion, provide an ideal location for integrated justice services. Let’s make sure that all options are indeed kept wide open.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson refused to be drawn on the possibility of a justice hub for Wilton Hill but added: “The council was bitterly disappointed at the Scottish Court Service’s decision to close courts in Peebles and Duns.

“As a result, we’ve been actively working with the SCS through regular discussions to ensure Borders residents have fair access to justice in the future.”