Review of COVID-19 Court Arrangements

May 13, 2021

Following the Scottish Government’s announcement that most of Scotland will move to COVID Protection “level 2” on 17 May, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has reviewed the operating arrangements in place across the courts.

Safety remains our top priority. While the need for physical distancing remains, the Guidance for court and tribunal users who need to come to our buildings is unchanged.  We will continue to take all the right steps in keeping our buildings safe as restrictions ease.

The Guidance for Supreme Courts users published on 17 March 2021 also remains unchanged.

From Monday 17 May we have adapted the guidance for Sheriff Courts, moving from a fixed summary criminal trial loading of five cases per trial court to allocating cases within the maximum safe capacity for each court room. This positive step will bring added flexibility in maximising the use of available space in individual courts, while strengthening controls by directly managing actual footfall rather than the number of cases.

Justice of the Peace Courts will recommence operation on 7 June 2021 as planned and like summary trials, Justice of the Peace trials will be allocated ensuring the loadings do not exceed the maximum safe capacity for each court room.

Civil hearings will continue to be conducted remotely, other than in exceptional circumstances where the physical presence of witnesses will be permitted.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service follows very clear guidance from Public Health Scotland on the measures that are required to minimise the potential transmission of the virus and on how the courts can continue to operate safely. All our Court buildings and court rooms adhere strictly to that guidance.  The clinical advice remains that, by following the FACTS guidance, the working environment is as safe as possible.


Witnesses and jurors

Witnesses cited to attend the Sheriff Court for a summary criminal trial should attend as per their citation unless otherwise directed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) or the solicitor acting for the accused.


Jurors and witnesses cited to appear for a High Court or Sheriff Court Solemn trial should continue to do so. Our Remote Jury Centres have been specifically designed to provide a safe environment for jurors during the pandemic – and support the administration of justice in relation to the most serious criminal cases.


Face coverings

Face coverings must be worn at all times whilst moving around SCTS buildings, unless the person has an exemption.  Similarly face coverings should be worn while in court rooms as set out in the guidance – full face covering guidance in court is available here.

Client consultation

Minimising face-to-face meetings within court buildings reduces the risk of transmission. Where possible, consultations should take place outwith the court estate. However, it is acknowledged there may be occasions where it is not possible to consult or take instructions on a particular matter in advance of the day of a court hearing.

Where client instruction or consultation is required during a court hearing, an adjournment can be sought. Where it is required prior to a court hearing, we will do our best during this period to facilitate local arrangements, using currently unoccupied accommodation.

As we plan to ease our way out of the restrictions, SCTS would like to thank all court users, judiciary and staff for their continuing compliance. Together we can support justice – safely.

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