Jury trials to restart in Scotland
Jury trials are to restart in Scotland with new social distancing and hygiene measures in place to protect those involved.
The first jury trials will take place in the High Court in Edinburgh on 20 July and in the High Court in Glasgow on 21 July.
The ballot to select the 15 jurors and five or more substitutes will take place ahead of the trial date so that only those selected as jurors or substitutes will need to attend court on the day of the trial.
Physical distancing measures will be put in place for jurors throughout the trial, including in the deliberation room.
In the High Court in Glasgow, there will be three rooms in use: the trial courtroom, with the jury in the gallery seating area; a separate room for jury deliberations; and a media viewing room.
In Edinburgh there will be two court rooms in use: the trial court room, with seating for media in the gallery, and the jury will view the trial remotely from a separate courtroom.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has published an information pamphlet, ‘Jury Trials, Your Safety is our Priority’, and an information sheet for jurors detailing the measures in place to ensure the safety of all parties including the witnesses, jurors, accused, judiciary, lawyers and staff.
The resumption of jury trials has been agreed following discussions of the Restarting Solemn Trials Working Group, which is chaired by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, and includes representatives from across the justice sector.
Lady Dorrian said: “Court staff have been working extremely hard in recent weeks to arrange for jury trials to recommence, greatly assisted by interested parties from across the justice sector.
“The challenges in conducting a 15-person jury trial in a physically distanced environment cannot be underestimated and I would like to thank all those involved for their commitment to ensure that justice is delivered safely.”
The working group will continue to work on ways to allow more solemn trials (trials of the most serious crimes) to take place in both the High Court and the sheriff courts.
This will include looking at whether there are any changes required to legislation and to rules of procedure to allow more use of digital solutions.
Pilots of virtual summary criminal trials (trials of less serious crimes) have been held successfully in Inverness and Aberdeen and will be rolled out across other areas.
Since lockdown began some court business, including civil and criminal appeal hearings, Court of Session hearings, personal injury cases and sheriff court civil cases, has moved into online virtual courts.