Interfaith listening service eases strain of court experience

Kirk members in Edinburgh are helping to deliver the first ever specialised court listening service in Scotland aimed at easing the strain of justice involvement.

Court volunteers
There are 20 volunteers so far, consisting of six from the Church of Scotland as well as other faiths including Islam and Hinduism.

Volunteers

Edinburgh Sheriff Court attendees can now turn to a volunteer from the city’s Interfaith Association who will provide a listening ear for those who want to talk; help court users find their way around the building, or refer them on to other organisations and services if appropriate.

There are 20 volunteers so far, consisting of six from the Church of Scotland as well as other faiths including Islam and Hinduism.

Wilma Wilson, a recently retired library assistant in Penicuik, is part of the team and said she was “delighted” to be “giving something back” during her retirement.

The lifetime member of South Kirk in Penicuik added: “A friend suggested I get involved and so far it’s been very rewarding.

“We’re not intrusive. We’re just there should someone want to talk. I’m basically doing what I did in the library – talk to people.

“You can feel the people we have talked with have appreciated someone listening to them.”

Leading the way

The Edinburgh service is only the second in the UK taking up an idea first established at Bradford Magistrates and Crown Court.

Edinburgh Interim Sheriff Clerk Les McIntosh said he was pleased the court was leading the way in Scotland.

“Having someone available to listen can be a real comfort at a stressful time,” he added.

“It has the potential to provide a valuable service to court users, particularly those attending for the first time or those who are distressed or upset.”

Ian Stewart, general secretary of the Edinburgh Interfaith Association, said the project was an example of how diverse groups in one city can work together for the common good.

“In the Brexit and Trump era it is always good to demonstrate that people are working together despite their differences,” he added.

In one of Scotland’s busiest courts, providing a week long service will be a challenge with only 20 volunteers available since the projects inception last December.

Hilda Warwick, project leader, urged people to come forward and sign up.

She said: “I would say to potential volunteers – don’t get put off if you don’t have any experience. We will give all the training you need. We only need your time once a month. It will be very rewarding.”

The Edinburgh Sheriff Court building opened to the public in September 1994. It is the largest of the courts within Lothian and Borders, serving a population of approximately 450,000 people.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email courtchaplaincy@gmail.com

Visit the Listening Service Facebook page.