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Coronavirus - Criminal Business

In relation to criminal business, we announced on 16 March that no new criminal jury trials would be commenced or new juries empanelled until further notice. Jury trials underway at that date would continue to the conclusion of the trial, if practical to do so.

From Thursday 19 March, there will now be a significant reduction in summary criminal trials. We will focus on custody trials and by exception a small number of non-custody trials where witnesses are available. The non-custody trials are likely to be limited to cases relating to domestic abuse, sexual offending and violence. 

In both solemn and summary criminal cases only a small proportion of overall cases coming to court require evidence led trials. Strong judicial case management and proactive engagement through COPFS and defence agents, should enable cases to be resolved at an earlier opportunity without the need for a trial and witnesses being unnecessarily called. In the coming weeks and months this will remain a critical feature of the system, and all those involved will be expected to respond to the current situation with a view to ensuring that our restricted capacity for trials is reserved for essential cases.

Working with COPFS, Police Scotland, Prisons, Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Scottish Government we are also exploring ways to increase the opportunities to pre-record evidence, enable evidence to be given from other locations and expand the use of technology, allowing those in police custody or prison to engage in a wider range of court hearings. 

High Court and Sheriff and Jury business within the Sheriff Courts

  • Trials which are currently being heard will continue to their conclusion where possible.
  • No new trials will commence. This situation will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and, when appropriate, citation of jurors will recommence, but, at this time, this is not expected to be before June 2020.
  • Jurors who have already been cited should not attend court.
  • Preliminary Hearing / First Diet courts will continue to call where possible and all cases proceeding to a trial will be continued for 3 months, to either a new Preliminary hearing / first diet court or a Trial diet.

 Sheriff Court Summary and Justice of the Peace business

  •  Trials which are currently being heard will continue to their conclusion where possible.
  • Trials where the accused is in custody will be heard where possible.
  • Other trials will only proceed in exceptional circumstances where there is minimal witnesses with known availability and we have the ability to maintain social distancing at courts.
  • Miscellaneous Procedural courts including cited courts will continue meantime where possible or will be dealt with administratively.
  • Accused on remand will be dealt with via video link as far as possible.

 Criminal Appeals

  • All solemn appeals will continue as normal.
  • All summary appeals will continue as normal.
  • Bail appeals will continue as normal and the ability to use VC will be implemented as soon as possible.

Exceptions

A case which does not come into the category of essential business may be treated as such if a good case can be made to the relevant court that it is urgent. Any person seeking to have a case treated as urgent should email the relevant office setting out the reasons. Any such application should be intimated to any other party to the proceedings.

If you are due to attend court as a juror

If you are currently serving as a juror (in either criminal or civil cases) in any of the courts in Scotland at this time, you should continue to attend court and take any directions given from the presiding judge or sheriff about attendance.

If you have been cited to attend for jury selection do not attend.

If you are due to attend court as an accused, a witness or as the victim of a crime

Please refer to COPFS Information for those due to attend court 

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