A new remote jury centre has been added to Scotland’s growing list of virtual criminal trial environments – with the latest opening up in Glasgow.
The Braehead Odeon cinema complex is set to be used for juries involved in high court criminal cases, in order to address substantial delays to proceedings caused by COVID-19.
Trials were due too get underway today at the multiplex, with 11 jury rooms set aside for 15 physically-distanced jurors, offering state-of-the-art, secure technology to connect with the courtroom where cases are heard.
The centres are the first in the UK as Scotland’s courts prepare to recommence proceedings more widely with Sheriff and jury trials starting in November. The centres are backed by a £6.5 million funding package from the Scottish Government.
Edinburgh’s centre has been up and running since 29 September, able to accommodate five juries supporting High Courts in Lothian.
Remote Jury Centres were instigated by the Restarting Solemn Trials Working Group, chaired by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, and made up of representatives from across the justice sector.
The Group recommended to the Lord President, Lord Carloway, that remote jury centres outwith court buildings would allow High Court trials to operate at pre-COVID-19 business levels.
Cinemas were chosen because they can provide, in a single building, a number of spacious and soundproofed auditoria combined with state-of-the-art, secure technology.
The courts have exclusive access to the jury centre Monday to Friday. Courtrooms have been fitted out with the cameras and technology necessary to broadcast the trials to the screens and to receive the video wall of jurors into the courtroom.
Balloting the jury will be done in the courtroom in advance without the jurors being present. Only the 15 jurors balloted, plus a small number of substitutes, will arrive at the jury centre for the trial. Each jury will be supported by a court officer, and each remote jury room will be supported by technical specialists to ensure continuity of proceedings.
Hand sanitisers, wall and floor markings and face masks will all be part of mandatory safety measures in the new centres.
Plans to increase the use of technology were established well before the current coronavirus situation. The courts were already using video access for custody links; and capturing evidence by video before a trial takes place in order to prevent children and vulnerable people from having to attend court. The courts have continued to use and extend this technology to enable virtual hearings in a range of different types of case.
Since lockdown began business has incrementally moved into virtual courts including civil and criminal appeal hearings; Court of Session hearings, personal injury cases; a range of sheriff court civil and appeal cases; and virtual summary criminal Remote Jury Centre Announcement