Planned business at a north court next week has been cancelled due to a scheduling mix-up with the regular sheriff’s holidays.
Summary trials had been due to begin at Tain Sheriff Court next Tuesday and Wednesday.
But they have had to be postponed because the court’s resident sheriff is on leave.
A spokesman for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) said that programming of business regularly takes account of leave periods for staff.
But he added that on this occasion the schedule was not adjusted early enough.
With trials due to start, the late postponements will have affected victims, witnesses and accuseds – as well as legal staff.
John Finnie MSP, the Scottish Greens justice spokesman and a Highland member, said the situation was “unfortunate” and said he would have hoped there would have been scope to draft in a replacement sheriff rather than inconvenience several others.
He said: “I am aware that people throughout the court system are trying to minimise churn as it’s called or wasted court time.
“This is an extremely unfortunate situation.
“I would have hoped that there would have been scope for a replacement sheriff to be brought in to prevent this.
“I would far sooner see one person inconvenienced than the witnesses, accused and so on who will have suffered considerable disruption as a result of this.”
A spokesman for the court service said: “Tain Sheriff Court will not hear any court business on July 4 and 5, and there will be arrangements to deal with for any new custody or urgent matters.
“This is due to the resident sheriff at Tain being on leave.
“The programming of business which takes account of business volumes also requires taking account of sheriff’s leave and it is usual for courts to be restricted during such periods.
“The efficient disposal of business is the responsibility of the sheriff principal.
“Normal course of business would not be scheduled when a sheriff is on leave however on this occasion the programme was not adjusted at an early enough stage unfortunately.
“SCTS are in discussion with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service’s current office configuration to ensure that this has no impact on our courts.”
A spokesman for the Crown Office declined to comment, saying scheduling is a matter for the courts.