Update on safety measures and court guidance

Nov 05, 2021

In response to Scotland’s move to beyond level 0 during August, we took a cautious approach in maintaining robust safety measures and guidance for courts and tribunals – with a commitment to review the arrangements during September and October.

As COVID-19 case numbers peaked during September this approach ensured that we maintained a safe operating environment for all those using our buildings as the throughput of business increased with the start of the criminal recovery programme.

In reviewing the current position we have taken account of the latest public health advice. On Tuesday this week the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care gave an update to the Scottish Parliament stating that, in spite of case numbers having fallen from the early September peak, they have levelled off at a higher level than before at around 2,500 a day. He added that, as we enter the winter period, the situation remains precarious and we need to redouble our efforts to adhere to the protective measures.

With this in mind, SCTS has decided to maintain all existing safety measures for the next three months – until the end of January 2022.  This will allow us to continue with the criminal court recovery programme and enable the return of a small number of in-person civil and tribunal hearings.

We will keep our guidance under regular review and make changes if necessary.  A further review will take place in January 2022 – taking account of the public health advice at that point.

Continuing Safety Measures

  • We encourage everyone to respect personal space and maintain at least 1m physical distancing in all our buildings.
  • We continue to encourage good hand hygiene, maintain enhanced surface cleaning – especially of high touch-point areas – and maintain good ventilation.
  • The legal requirement for face coverings to be worn in our buildings will continue and the guidance for face coverings in the court room will remain in place.
  • Our “Safe2Go” contact system will continue to require all those accessing our buildings to check-in and check-out using the system.
  • In order to ensure that we can manage overall footfall and conduct the highest levels of business in a safe environment, general public access to our buildings will continue to be restricted and public counters will remain closed.
  • We continue to support home working arrangements where possible

Court Guidance

The guidance on arrangements for the business of the Supreme Courts and for the Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts has been updated.  The updated guidance will take effect from 15 November.

While the presumption remains that the majority of civil procedural business will continue to be heard virtually, the guidance enables substantive Inner House and Criminal Appeal Court business to be heard in-person by default.  All other civil business in the Court of Session and Sheriff Court will continue to be conducted virtually, unless the court allows an in-person hearing on cause shown.

For criminal solemn business in the Sheriff Courts, the accused should attend the first diet.

Following public health advice

The existing Guidance for court and tribunal users who need to come to our buildings remains in place and in addition we ask everyone who uses our buildings to follow the Scottish Government’s public health advice to support safety: 

Eric McQueen, Chief Executive of SCTS said:

“Although case levels have reduced from their peak in early September they remain at a high level.  The virus has not gone away and we need to continue to do all we can to keep ourselves, our colleagues and all who use our buildings safe.

Throughout the pandemic we have taken a safety-first approach to our business.  We continue to have some of the most robust measures in place across our buildings to maintain both safety and the throughput of business.

The revisions to the operations of the Supreme, Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts are able to be made due to those measures being in place and as a result of ongoing collaboration with colleagues across the justice sector.

As we look to a post-pandemic world this collaboration will continue to be vital so that we can build on the innovative approaches used during the pandemic.  By doing so we can further improve the system balancing safety, accessibility and the best use of processes to protect people’s rights and enhance access to justice.

 I would like to thank all for their continued help and support in keeping our buildings safe for everyone.”

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