Preparations to Restart Sheriff and Jury Trials

Oct 27, 2020

The working group, chaired by Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull, set up to oversee the restart of sheriff and jury trials, met last week (21 October 2020), building on the success of the High Court remote jury centres.

Venues for remote jury centres to serve the Sheriffdoms of Glasgow and Strathkelvin and Lothian and Borders have been confirmed. For trials running in Glasgow Sheriff Court, six juries will be based remotely in Glasgow Quay.  For trials running initially in Edinburgh Sheriff Court and then Livingston Sheriff Court, three juries will be based remotely in Lothian Road, Edinburgh. Both remote jury centres are in Odeon cinema complexes.

Tim Barraclough, Director, Judicial Office for Scotland, said:

 “The Working Group brings together those from across the justice sector with the expertise and insight required to plan the roll-out of the remote jury approach to the sheriff courts. Building on what we have learnt from the High Court, this group is working together to develop a model that will allow trials to proceed fairly, effectively and safely across Scotland. Progress so far has been very encouraging.” 

Not all venues being investigated for sheriff court Jury centres are cinemas and not all cinemas considered are Odeon venues. With the locations for the first centres confirmed, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service is now seeking to conclude contracts to allow the other four Sheriffdoms – Grampian, Highland and Islands; North Strathclyde; South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway and Tayside, Central and Fife – to plan for a restart of sheriff and jury business in the new year.

Amanda Millar, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “We very much welcome being involved in this important work to restart sheriff court jury trials safely. It follows the success in restarting High Court trials using non-court buildings during the pandemic, an approach we suggested early on in the discussions about how to progress criminal court business.

“We will continue to engage in the work to reduce the current backlog in the courts, which will also include addressing the needs of victims, witnesses and accused people who have been waiting for a date for trials they are involved in.”

Tony Lenehan, Faculty of Advocates, said:

“The Faculty of Advocates looks forward to working with the Group to expand into the Sheriff Court the impressive progress SCTS has already made in the High Court with remote jury trials.”

Krista Johnston, Martin Johnston & Socha, Solicitors and Criminal Defence Lawyers, said:

“Defence solicitors across the country will be encouraged by this announcement. We are all anxious to begin to address the backlog of trials. Sheriff and jury trials deal with more serious crime and awaiting trial is a difficult time for both accused and witnesses. We are delighted that these cases can begin to be dealt with in Lothian and Borders and Glasgow, and we hope that other jurisdictions will quickly follow.”

Working Group Membership

Sheriff Principal C Turnbull

Sheriff G Wade QC

Sheriff N McFadyen

Sheriff W Summers

Sheriff A Duff

Sineidin Corrins, COPFS

Laura Buchan, COPFS

Tony Lenehan, Faculty of Advocates

John Mulholland, Law Society of Scotland

Gillian Mawdsley, Law Society of Scotland

Ann Ritchie, A Ritchie Solicitors

Krista Johnston, Martin Johnston & Socha Solicitors

Kate Wallace, Victim Support Scotland

Louise Johnson, Scottish Women’s Aid

Chief Superintendent Barry Blair, Police Scotland

Anna Donald, Scottish Government

Tim Barraclough, SCTS

David Currie, SCTS

Yvonne Taylor, SCTS

Steven D’Arcy, SCTS

Neil Christie, SCTS

Les McIntosh, SCTS

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