Recovery programme courts come into operation

Sep 06, 2021

Additional courts have started operating around the country today as part of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) Courts Recovery Programme.

The additional courts form part of the Recover, Renew, Transform programme announced by the Criminal Justice Board in March to return the justice system to pre-pandemic capacity and address backlogs; embed new ways of working; and transform outcomes for those affected by the criminal justice system.

As a first step, the SCTS has put in place the court programme which has included the expansion of remote jury centres and a daily increase of 16 extra courts.

The new capacity is now in place providing:

  • 4 additional High Courts;
  • 2 additional Sheriff Solemn Courts;
  • Up to 10 Sheriff Summary Courts.

The High Court will sit in Airdrie, Dundee, Inverness and Stirling, with the Sheriff Solemn courts sitting in Dumfries and Dunfermline. All trial courts will be linked to remote jury centres.

The 10 additional Sheriff Summary courts will be provided at varying locations across Scotland, based on the level of cases and safe court capacity, with at least one additional court in each of the six sheriffdoms in Scotland.

As well as the 16 extra courts, new facilities have been prepared to enable more multi-accused High Court trials to be heard. Courts in Saltmarket Glasgow and Lawnmarket Edinburgh have been refitted to accommodate multi-accused trials of up to 9 people in fully COVID-compliant surroundings.  With the move to 1m social distancing in our buildings, every Sheriff court will now have the capacity to accommodate 2-accused trials and SCTS is working to expand this capacity further in the coming weeks.  

In addition to physical works, staff have been recruited across the country to enable the programme to be put into effect. There has also been an increase in part-time judicial resources to meet the increased demand of the programme. Eight new temporary judges have been appointed to preside over High Court trials. There is also a current recruitment round for 15 new part-time sheriffs and 15 new part-time summary sheriffs.

The recovery element of the programme is supported by £50 million cross-justice funding announced by the Scottish Government to provide the necessary resources for the courts, COPFS, Legal Aid, Police, Community Justice, Prisons and third sector support services.

Eric McQueen, Chief Executive, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said:

“Our attention is focussed on creating a safe environment to tackle the backlogs across courts which impact on complainers, witnesses and the accused.

“We have moved quickly to introduce these additional courts as part of the recovery programme and this has been made possible by continued collaboration across the whole justice system.

“We are progressing while still recognising the need to keep our buildings as safe as possible for all to use. At all times safety for everyone in our courts and remote jury centres will remain our top priority. We will continue to maintain a careful, cautious and sensible approach in all that we do to maintain both safety and throughput of business.”  
The Criminal Justice Board is a sub-group of the Justice Board for Scotland and includes representation from Scottish Government, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Prison Service, Police Scotland, Scottish Legal Aid Board and Community Justice Scotland.


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