Safety measures introduced so High Court trials can resume in Scotland

With lockdown continuing to be scaled back, High Court trials will resume from July 20 and 21 in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively.

By Neil McGrory, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 16th July 2020, 10:25 am
A range of measures to protect the safety of all involve at the High Court in Edinburgh (pictured) and Glasgow.
A range of measures to protect the safety of all involve at the High Court in Edinburgh (pictured) and Glasgow.

The trials, which will feature a range of measures to protect the safety of all involve, have been arranged following consulation with the Restarting Solemn Trials Working Group headed by Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk. Solemn trials are the more serious cases heard at the High Court and sheriff courts.

Lady Dorrian said: “Court staff have been working extremely hard in recent weeks to arrange for jury trials to recommence, greatly assisted by interested parties from across the justice sector. 

“The challenges in conducting a 15-person jury trial in a physically distanced environment cannot be underestimated and I would like to thank all those involved for their commitment to ensure that justice is delivered safely.” 

In each case the 15 jurors, along with at least five substitutes, will be balloted remotely in advance of the trial date, selected from a larger pool of candidates who have responded to citations issued last month. Only jurors or substitutes will be required to attend the court building on trial dates and physical distancing measures will be employed throughout their service including during deliberation.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has published a pamphlet for jurors entitled Jury Trials: Your Safety is our Priority, which can be downloaded from its website.

At the High Court in Glasgow, three rooms will be in use – the courtroom, where the jury will be in the gallery seating area, a separate room for deliberations, and a viewing room for use by the media.

At Edinburgh, there will be two courtrooms in use. The trial courtroom will include seating for the media in the gallery, while jurors will view the trial remotely from another courtroom.

Earlier this year Lord Justice General Lord Carloway announced that physical distancing meant it would not be possible for jury trials to be held, but now lockdown has been eased to some extent it is now possible, although challenging, for these to take place.

Lady Dorrian’s working group was established to find the safest methods to use and continues to develop these as lockdown rules continue to change. The group includes representatives from various legal bodies, the Scottish Government and crime-related charities such as Rape Crisis Scotland.

During lockdown some court business has been held virtually, including some ciil and criminal appeals, Court of Session hearings and personal injury cases.