COP26 Contingency planning update

Sep 07, 2021

Detailed planning continues for the management of court operations during the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) to be held in Glasgow – the biggest and most complex event ever held in Scotland. 

The conference, hosted by the UK Government, will take place at the SEC in Glasgow between Sunday 31 October and Friday 12 November 2021 with thousands of delegates and a significant number of heads of state expected to attend. The conference is intended to provide an international response to the climate emergency and will attract significant attention both domestically and internationally.

Police Scotland announced that the safety and security operation for the conference is significant and will involve one of the biggest mobilisations of police assets the UK has ever seen. Around 10,000 officers will be deployed each day. Officers will be drafted from all divisions across Scotland, supported by a substantial number of colleagues from other UK police services as part of mutual aid arrangements. This level of deployment will have a significant impact on police officers’ availability to attend court as police witnesses.

It is anticipated that the conference will attract demonstrations and peaceful protests but, based on experience from previous events, there exists the potential for disruption. Accordingly, we are putting in place contingency plans to manage any additional custody business.

Plans are now in place to have additional weekend custody courts at Glasgow on each Saturday and Sunday, and at Edinburgh and Aberdeen on the Saturday during the conference. Local court meetings are now taking place at these locations, engaging all who will be involved to ensure that we are all adequately prepared for any additional custodies at weekends.

Custodies at all other locations will be dealt with as normal. We are, however, also looking at contingency plans for the circumstance where there is mass disruption at locations other than Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen and will update on this in due course.

A COP26 Operational Working Group, with representatives from the Law Society of Scotland and justice organisations, is now in place to ensure that all contingency measures are robustly challenged and refined. In addition, SCTS and Police Scotland attended a national seminar hosted by the Law Society of Scotland to outline the impact of the COP26 conference on 6 July and will provide a further update at the Law Society of Scotland conference scheduled for 15 September.

Impact of conference on the courts

While the courts will aim to deal with as much business as possible throughout the conference period, there will be a significant impact on criminal business. Due to the high level of police officer deployment, officers will be unable to attend as witnesses for the sheriff court and Justice of the Peace court trials. As a result:

  • sheriff summary trials and Justice of the Peace summary trials will not take place for a three-week period from 25 October to 12 November at all courts across Scotland. Some courts, however, will convert their trials to notional diets. These diets will still require the attendance of the accused but witnesses will not be required to attend.  
  • sheriff and jury trials will not take place for a two-week period from 1 November to 12 November at all sheriff courts across Scotland.
  • procedural criminal courts will continue as normal during the conference and there is the potential for additional civil business to be dealt with over the conference period.
  • the High Court will continue to sit as programmed. However, given the proximity of the conference to Glasgow High Court and the potential for disruption, trials assigned for Glasgow during the two-week period from 1 November to 12 November will instead be heard at sheriff courts outwith Glasgow.
  • additional custody courts are scheduled to sit at
    • Glasgow on 30 and 31 October, 6, 7, 13 and 14 November
    • Aberdeen on 30 October, 6 and 13 November
    • Edinburgh on 30 October, 6 and 13 November


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