New initiative leads to early resolution of over 130 cases at Glasgow Sheriff Court in three days

Nov 13, 2023

A new plea surgery at Glasgow Sheriff Court has led to the early resolution of nearly 130 cases.

The surgery was introduced by Sheriff Principal Aisha Anwar, with the support of the Procurator Fiscal, the Glasgow Bar Association and the Royal Faculty of Procurators, in a further initiative aimed at reducing the number of cases calling at a trial diet and as a measure to tackle the backlog.

The plea surgery deals with all sheriff summary and solemn business as well as cases before the Justice of the Peace court. It is conducted each Monday on a drop in basis which allows defence agents to attend while at Glasgow Sheriff Court on other business.

Having taken instructions from their client, a defence agent can discuss the case with a procurator fiscal depute who is authorised to discuss and agree pleas if that is possible.

There have been plea discussions in 58 solemn cases and 79 summary cases.  30 section 76 letters, indicating an intention to plead guilty, have been tendered.  The solemn plea discussions alone represent approximately two weeks of all jury trial business in Glasgow Sheriff Court.

A recent study across Scotland found that in a 12 month period, out of 36,000 not guilty pleas in summary cases only 5500 evidence led trials took place.
Sheriff Principal Aisha Anwar, for the Sheriffdom of Glasgow and Strathkelvin said:

“Working together to secure early resolutions and to promote efficient disposal of court business helps to prevent witnesses and complainers being called to court unnecessarily and allows the accused to bring a conclusion to proceedings. It also assists with reducing waiting times for cases which do proceed to trial. In short, it helps to improve public confidence in the court process.

“I would like to thank the Crown and the defence for their enthusiastic participation in the plea surgery.”

Fraser Gibson, the Procurator Fiscal for Glasgow and Strathkelvin said: “I am delighted that working together with our criminal justice partners we have been able to successfully institute a plea surgery in Glasgow. The plea surgery has dealt with over 130 cases, providing swifter outcomes, greater certainty and less inconvenience to victims and witnesses and producing significant efficiencies for criminal justice partners in Glasgow”
Michael Gallen, President, Glasgow Bar Association said:  “The Glasgow Bar Association were delighted to work in collaboration with Sheriff Principal Anwar, COPFS and RFPG in the establishment of a Plea Surgery at Glasgow Sheriff Court. The early signs suggest this will be hugely beneficial to all involved in the court process in facilitating the early resolution of proceedings and relieving the anxiety occasioned by delays in these proceedings.”

John Bett, Vice-Dean, Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow said: “The Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow was delighted to work with Sheriff Principal Anwar, the COPFS, GBA and other stakeholders to establish a plea surgery at Glasgow Sheriff Court.  Early indications are that the plea surgery is proving a resounding success, facilitating the early disposal of criminal proceedings where that can appropriately be achieved.  Our members hope that the plea surgery will become a permanent fixture in Glasgow, promoting a closer working relationship between the Crown and defence agents and delivering prompt conclusions for complainers, accused persons and witnesses.” 

The plea surgery in Glasgow follows the success of the plea surgery introduced by Sheriff Principal Anwar in Hamilton while she was Sheriff Principal in South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway.

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