Further rollout of remote jury trials planned
The rollout of remote jury trials is to continue, with more courts to be linked up to nearby venues over the next few weeks.
This arrangement allows criminal trials to continue while COVID restrictions are in place by having juries based in a separate venue away from the court where they can physically distance safely and watch the trial remotely.
Seven sheriff courts are now running jury trials linked to remote jury centres.
Sheriff courts in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ayr, Paisley, Kilmarnock, Hamilton and Airdrie are connected to remote jury centres in Odeon cinemas in Edinburgh, Glasgow Quay, Ayr, Braehead and East Kilbride.
From 25 January, Dundee Sheriff Court will begin solemn trials linked to a remote jury centre at the Odeon cinema in Dundee.
Jury trials will also get underway in Inverness from 8 February, linked to a jury centre at Eden Court, and Aberdeen Sheriff Court and Aberdeen High Court will restart jury trials on 15 February linked to a remote jury centre at the Vue cinema.
Also in February, courts at Falkirk, Kirkcaldy and Perth will begin jury trials linked to jury centres at Dunfermline and Dundee Odeons.
Finally, Greenock and Dumbarton will restart jury trials linked to the remote jury centre in the Odeon at Braehead.
This will complete the rollout of remote of jury trials to every sheriffdom in Scotland.
David Fraser, executive director for court operations at the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, said: “We recognise the concern and impact on the accused, victims and witnesses of any further delay in jury trials.
“The remote jury centres were designed to operate during COVID, ensuring jury trials can continue while restrictions are in place.
“The jury centres are large ventilated spaces, with physical distancing for jurors at all times and are fully equipped with all the necessary precautions of face coverings, hand washing facilities and sanitisers.
“While we know that there are concerns at this time, we have strictly followed Public Health Scotland’s guidance to make these new centres as safe as possible.
“Having juries remote from courts enables physically distanced trials to proceed with the same health, safety and security measures available to all court users.
“Our videos available on our website illustrate well all the measures jurors, witnesses and participants can expect and we would urge those called to serve as jurors or as witnesses to attend.
“Restrictions on travelling or attendance do not apply to those attending our courts or remote jury centres.”
Debbie Wilson, convener of the Law Society of Scotland Criminal Law Committee, said: “It is great to see this update on expanding access to jury centres across mainland Scotland.
“The benefits of using non-court buildings during the pandemic to allow social distancing, is something we recognised early on in the discussions about how to progress criminal court business.
“This is exactly the kind of creative solution we need to see more of to address the court backlog.
“The vast majority of court business does not involve juries and there are still witnesses, accused and complainers left uncertain about when the cases involving them are to be resolved.
“We continue to engage positively with our criminal justice partners in discussions to find workable solutions which, importantly, ensure the safety of all court users.”