COVID-19 update: new courts and tribunals guidance

Jan 25, 2022

In the First Minister’s statement to the Scottish Parliament last week, she outlined that, while significant pressures and uncertainties remain, the data is beginning to give confidence that we have turned the corner on the Omicron wave. This has enabled the majority of COVID measures to be eased, with a new strategic framework being developed, setting how the country will look to manage COVID without major restrictions in the future.

Continuing safety measures

In the meantime, the existing Scottish Government baseline safety measures will remain in place and we will continue to take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of COVID. Our commitment remains that anyone who needs to visit or work in our premises will be able to do so safely.

In response the latest public health advice, we will move from two metres back to one metre physical distancing in SCTS buildings, with effect from Monday 31 January 2022.

To support the move to 1m physical distancing, we will continue to rigorously maintain the following measures across our estate:

  • We encourage everyone to respect personal space and maintain at least 1m physical distancing in our buildings
  • We continue to encourage good hand hygiene, maintain enhanced surface cleaning – especially of high touch-point areas – and maintain good ventilation in line with relevant guidance
  • Please take a Lateral Flow Test before coming to our buildings
  • The legal requirement for face coverings to be worn in our buildings and court rooms is still in place
  • Our Safe2Go contact system continues to require all those accessing our buildings to check-in and check-out using the system
  • General public access to our buildings will continue to be restricted and public counters remain closed
  • We continue to support home working arrangements wherever possible.

A revised version of our coming to court guidance has been published today, taking effect from 31 January 2022.

Court guidance

The guidance on the arrangements for the business of the Supreme Courts and for the Sheriff and Justice of the Peace courts has been revised and will take effect from 31 January 2022.

This effectively mirrors the position pre-Omicron, enabling substantive Court of Session Inner House and Criminal Appeal Court cases 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 courts allow an in-person hearing on cause shown. For criminal business the guidance enables summary criminal trial loadings to be increased and the re-starting of Justice of the Peace trials.

Looking ahead

Looking a little further ahead, the First Minister’s update offered a more optimistic outlook.  Over the next few months, it looks as though a greater degree of normality may begin to return – albeit with some baseline safety measures remaining in place.  If the positive progress on COVID continues, we intend removing physical distancing restrictions and re-opening our doors to the public around late February or early March.  Making predictions has proved very tricky throughout COVID, but making preparations has been essential.  With that in mind, we will begin to consider how our move towards the “new normal” can best be managed over the coming weeks – provided the public health guidance allows.

Keeping safe

In the meantime please do continue to be vigilant and help protect yourself and others:

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we rely on, and appreciate everyone’s ongoing cooperation to enable us to continue to support justice, despite the challenging circumstances that COVID-19 presents. We will keep our approach under regular review in line with public health guidance and will provide updates as and when changes take place.

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