New monthly information on criminal case throughput

Oct 22, 2020

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has today published the first of a new monthly workbook to show the throughput of criminal cases in our courts.

Since re-opening in June, our courts look and feel very different with physical distancing in place, restrictions on who can enter our courts, enhanced hygiene measures and mandatory wearing of face coverings in all public and communal areas.

COVID-19, while reducing our courtroom capacity, has also changed the way cases are handled, with increased electronic transmission, reduction in physical attendance and an increased use of remote hearings, virtual hearings and the introduction of remote jury centres. 

Our new workbook shows the volumes of cases being progressed each month in the High and Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts from April 2020, compared against the monthly averages for 2019/20 (pre-COVID).

The SCTS quarterly series of Official Statistics on criminal case activity in Scotland will continue to be published as normal.

The September figures show:

  • Following an initial reduction after lockdown, the overall level of new cases registered has risen to 83% of the average monthly pre-COVID level.
  • Petitions, which provide a useful indicator of future solemn business, are 25% higher than the average monthly pre-COVID level.
  • With the initial introduction of High Court remote jury centres now in place, evidence led trials are now 43% of the average monthly pre-COVID level. This will increase during November as the normal capacity for 16 trials per day is restored. Since July, an increase in Preliminary and Continued Preliminary hearings have been scheduled to enable resolution or to allow trial diets to be assigned that were unable to progress during the peak of the pandemic.
  • Remote Jury Centres are being extended across Scotland to re-start sheriff court jury trials, with Lothian and Borders and Glasgow and Strathkelvin commencing by December. The other Sheriffdoms will follow in the early part of 2021.
  • Evidence led summary trials in the Sheriff Courts are now 76% of the average monthly pre-COVID levels.
  • The majority of criminal cases are resolved without the need for a trial and the total volume of cases concluded in September was 89% of the average monthly pre-COVID level.  

Commenting on the new monthly workbook Eric McQueen, Chief Executive said:

“Our courts are an essential public service and are open for business. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions we have put stringent measures in place to enable them to operate in a safe manner, protecting the health of our staff, judiciary and court users.

Since the first full month’s criminal programme in September, we can see considerable progress and a trajectory towards pre-COVID levels, both in trials and cases resolved without trial. This is the result of incredible collaboration across the courts, the judiciary, Scottish Government, justice organisations, the legal profession and the third sector.

While these are encouraging signs in getting back to normal operating levels, scheduled cases are twice the normal level and the average waiting period for trials has doubled to 12 months in the High Court, 15 months in Sheriff Solemn and 6 months in Sheriff Summary. We are working closely with all those involved in the justice system to find solutions to reduce delays.

I am delighted that we have been able to commence publication of these figures on a monthly basis which will show the progress we are making and challenges we still face against the backdrop of a global pandemic.”


  • Monthly Management Information workbook is available at:

  • Official Statistics: The Quarterly Criminal Court Statistics report is available at:
  • The MCMI and the QCC do not cover court cases relating to civil business.
  • Adjournments due to lack of court time are when cases are unable to be heard on the scheduled day due to other cases taking priority on the day.
  • See the Scottish Government’s website for criminal statistics relating to people, offence types and sentencing as well as civil justice:

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