Demolition experts have moved in to start clearing the way for Scotland’s first justice centre to be built in Inverness.
The new £23million courts complex in the Longman area has moved a step closer to becoming a reality as the former Burdens warehouse at the site is bulldozed.
The scheme secured planning permission at the end of February and will free up Inverness Castle to be transformed into a new tourist attraction.
Construction work is due to begin at the former bus depot site in the autumn, with completion of the facility scheduled for summer 2019.
The “V-shaped” complex – hailed as the first of its kind and a model for the rest of the country – will include six courtrooms and provide a base for a wide range of organisations involved in criminal justice.
There will be specialist facilities to support victims and witnesses of domestic abuse, sexual violence and child abuse, as well as providing a base for pioneering efforts to tackle the cycle of reoffending.
It will have 83 parking spaces and 68 bike spaces, two reconfigured access routes to Longman Road and a secure link to Burnett Road, home to the city’s main police station.
The project has also paved the way for high court cases to return to the Highlands for the first time since 2013.
Scottish Greens justice spokesman John Finnie, an MSP for the Highlands and islands, said: “It’s an important development for a number of reasons, not least that we’re going to see the high court circuit return to Inverness.
“It’s important to see justice done locally and I campaigned for it and delighted that it’s happening.
“It’s also an important opportunity to make things better for witnesses in court, to provide the necessary separation between defence and prosecution witnesses and opportunities to access other services in the criminal justice system, such as social work and Women’s Aid.
“It will be a significant improvement.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said: “The Inverness justice centre is an exciting development with its unique vision is to bring together justice organisations to improve the delivery of justice within a purpose-built fully integrated facility.
“It will deliver a wide range of services and problem solving approaches to help reduce re-offending, and offer specialist facilities, support and advice for victims and witnesses of domestic abuse, sexual violence and child abuse.
“The justice centre will have the capacity to allow the High Court to hear the most serious criminal cases from the Highland community.”