Less serious criminal cases paused as COVID cases rise
The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service is to focus on only the most serious criminal cases throughout the lockdown period, the Lord President has announced.
The decision was taken due to rising cases of COVID and the higher transmission rate of the new variant.
The move will reduce the number of criminal trials taking place by 75 per cent, with summary trials – which do not require a jury – to be adjourned until restrictions are lifted.
Confirming the change at the lunchtime briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the move was “regrettable” but felt it was a “proportionate response” to the rise in cases.
She said: “From tomorrow, witnesses should assume that they are not due to attend court unless you’re contacted by the Crown Office to confirm that the trial is going ahead.
“In the coming weeks, the court system will focus on the more serious cases. That means criminal jury trials in the High Court and the sheriff courts will continue. Jurors will attend remote jury centres, which have been established to create a safe environment during the pandemic.”
Civil business is continuing as planned, with much of this business taking place online.
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said the move was “sensible” but warned about the backlog of cases it would create.
He said: “Ministers need to work with the courts service to ensure that a robust and properly funded recovery plan is in place to ensure that this backlog is tackled as soon as the public health situation allows.”
Also at the briefing, Sturgeon confirmed that 163,377 people had now received the first dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford-AstraZenica vaccine, with 1,100 vaccine sites operational across Scotland.
She said that as supply of the vaccine was becoming clearer, she was “hopeful” the vaccination of people on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list could be accelerated so this phase could be completed before May.