WORK has begun on building an Inverness justice centre that will eventually allow the city’s castle to be opened up as a fully fledged tourist attraction.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) is constructing the complex on the site of a former bus depot between Longman Road and the Burnett Road police station, close to the former college site.
Once open, the city’s courts will switch to the new facility. Robertson Northern is scheduled to complete the main building works next year.
Scotland’s justice minister Michael Matheson joined SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen and Grampian, Highland and Islands Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle at a formal ceremony to mark the start of the work on Thursday.
As well as providing modern court and tribunals facilities, a range of justice and support organisations will be based in the centre providing integrated facilities for victims, witnesses, litigants and other users.
Specialist facilities for children and young people will be incorporated within the design.
Mr Matheson said: "Today brings us a step closer to providing new facilities to deliver a truly 21st century service.
"Scottish Government funding of £30 million has made the project possible, reflecting our commitment to deliver a justice system that is accessible, modern and fit for purpose. The centre will give the people of the Highlands access to modern facilities and support all in the same place, which will have a positive impact on local communities."
Mr McQueen said: "It’s a unique opportunity to bring organisations together, focusing – where practical – on problem-solving approaches to reduce re-offending and increase the opportunity for community sentencing."
Within the court complex, criminal courts will be on the first floor, and civil courts and tribunal spaces on the ground floor, segregating building users.
Six courtrooms will incorporate the latest digital technology. Separate and discrete areas will be created for jurors and witnesses.
Organisations and services supported in the justice centre will include the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, NHS Highland and Scottish Women’s Aid.