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SCTS News

Jurors to return to courtrooms for the first time in over two years

May 25, 2022

As COVID restrictions have eased and the rates of infection reduced substantially, the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service will shortly begin to decommission the majority of Remote Jury Centres, where juries were accommodated at cinema venues.

These spacious facilities allowed for physical distancing and enhanced health and safety measures required during the height of the COVID pandemic allowing trials to proceed. Jurors for the High Courts and Sheriff and jury courts will begin to return to the position where they attend for service at court buildings.  

Decommissioning will be phased over the summer months with jurors returning to court buildings between July and September 2022. So during that period some jurors will continue to serve at Remote Jury Centres and some at court buildings.

Over the last two years the balloting of jurors has been done in advance without the jurors being present. This will continue once jurors are back in the courtrooms so only the 15 jurors balloted to participate plus a small number of substitutes will attend for the trial.

The first citations to attend for jury service at court buildings will be issued shortly.  As the return to courts will be carried out in stages, there will be different information available for jurors depending on whether they are due to attend a trial in a court building or at a Remote Jury Centre. Guidance has been updated to reflect this and is available from a suite of pages on our website.

As we work through the criminal court recovery programme, two courtrooms in Parliament House which were not originally designed to accommodate juries, will continue to be linked to Remote Jury Centres to enable planned levels of trials to continue to run. If the recovery programme is extended in future we may make further use of the successful Remote Jury Centre model and this will continue to from part of our long term contingency planning options.

Given that Remote Jury Centres was an innovative and radical departure from the traditional jury model, as part of our annual court user’s survey, we commissioned an external evaluation to understand court users experiences and to ensure we learn lessons for the future. The evaluation report can be accessed from here.  

David Fraser, SCTS Executive Director Court Operations said: “Remote Jury Centres were established following a recommendation from Lady Dorrian’s Restarting Solemn Trials Working Group, which made sure that jurors could be physically distanced while hearing evidence and taking part in deliberations about the case. Without this innovation, jury trials would not have been possible during the pandemic and backlogs would have far exceeded where they are now.

”The return of jurors to serve in court buildings is another important step in our recovery programme and, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, we rely on, and greatly appreciate, everyone’s ongoing co-operation to enable us to continue to support justice.

“As always the safety of all court users remains our priority and we will keep our approach under regular review in line with public health guidance.”

 

 

Background

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service introduced the Criminal Court Recovery Programme in September last year to tackle the backlog which resulted from the Covid-19 Pandemic. This established an additional 4 High Court trials, 2 Sheriff and Jury trials and 10 Sheriff Summary trials to operate daily.

There are presently RJCs operating in Aberdeen, Ayr, Dundee, Dunfermline, East Kilbride Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. They have enabled the throughput of criminal trials to return to and in some cases exceed pre-COVID levels.

The first Remote Jury Centres to be decommissioned will be in Aberdeen and Inverness with the first jury trial with jurors back in the courtroom likely to be around 5 July.

 

Contact: SCTS Communications Manager Stuart Ritchie communications@scotcourts.gov.uk or 0131 240 6840

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