As part of the celebrations of both the BDA’s 125th Year Anniversary and the BSL (Scotland) Act, BDA Scotland hosted an Access to Justice Services event on Wednesday, 24 February 2016. The next day, a participant emailed us to find out when the next similar event would be. This was beyond our expectations and clearly shows that the event was a definite success.

The Access to Justice Services event saw about 17 people visiting West Lothian Civic Centre in Livingston, along with three BSL Interpreters and their student interpreters. The morning started at Police Scotland, with a tour of the holding cells and a talk by the sergeant responsible for the cells. The group enjoyed the opportunity to see what real police cells look like from the inside and got to pick the sergeant’s brains about his day to day work. Did you know that they have 26 cells in Livingston and sometimes that is not even enough for the amount of detainees?

This was followed by a Q & A with the superintendent, who was able to satisfy the curiosity of the group by answering a vast range of questions.

We then had a tour of the Sheriff Court, where the Procurator Fiscal gave a very educational presentation about her own work and the role of the Scottish courts, followed by the court clerk who gave an explanation of the legal processes involved in the services of Crown Office and court system.

Afterwards there was a panel Q & A with representatives from the Scottish Legal Aid Board, Police Scotland, Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, who were happy to answer the questions of the group, but also actively asked for feedback from the participants. There was a strong interest in learning about Deaf people’s experiences in the justice system. Superintendent Jim Baird of Police Scotland also highlighted the BDA Scotland’s recent report (Access and Inclusion: A Report on Hate Crime in Scotland’s Deaf Community, published in March 2015) and acknowledged the recommendations given to improve services to the Deaf community.

Overall, it was a wonderful opportunity to discuss the legal system with experts from across the board and we are hoping to build on this success by hosting similar events in the near future.