Courts to maintain use of remote jury centres despite Covid ease
Scottish courts will maintain the use of remote jury centres for trials of accused persons despite the easing of Covid restrictions, it was announced this week.
The specially-convened centres, which have been established in Odeon cinemas around the country, will remain part of the justice system to increase ‘safe operating capacity’ and ‘maximise case throughput’ as Scotland moves to Level 0 next week.
Despite that the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has said it will not make any changes to regulations on physical distancing between 19 July and August 9.
From August 9, the organisation will move from 2m to 1m distancing and stressed that ‘maintaining distance in a crowded environment remains an effective mitigation against transmission of the virus and we will encourage everyone to respect personal space by introducing 1m physical distancing in all our buildings.’
The changes in the regulations means Scottish courts will be able to handle more multi-accused trials, allow more witnesses to attend as well as family and friends in supporting roles.
The courts also said that the” Safe2Go” contact system will be maintained, requiring all those visiting its buildings to check-in and check-out using the system.
Some of the innovations that have taken place in response to Covid, which include the use of electronic signatures and electronic submission of case papers will also be retained, reducing unnecessary travel and paperwork.
Making increasing use of fully virtual custody courts, virtual summary trials and pre-intermediate diet meetings; and conducting the majority of civil court and tribunals business virtually will also help free up physical court space to focus on criminal case backlogs and civil and tribunal cases requiring in-person hearings.
An SCTS spokesperson said: “As has been the case throughout the pandemic we will keep our approach and guidance under review. Reviews will take place during September and October, considering the public health advice at that point and its implications for the measures we have in place – including the need to restrict public access to buildings.
“We would like to thank everyone for their continuing commitment and flexibility as we take further careful steps towards normality. In taking a cautious approach to the relaxation of restrictions we can ensure that everyone who uses our buildings can continue to feel safe – while focusing on increasing business throughput to address case backlogs.”