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SCTS News

Stay Safe in Courts and Tribunals

Jan 05, 2021

As tougher Covid restrictions are introduced in Scotland, The Lord President, Lord Carloway, has called for all court and tribunal users to abide by the protective measures already in place against COVID transmission in Scotland’s courts and tribunal buildings. 

In his statement issued today, he stresses that “I expect everyone to take every step possible to ensure that they and their colleagues respect the measures introduced to protect both themselves and others.”

The steps, he says, are necessary:  “Together we can keep the administration of justice going in a way that is effective, fair and safe for all.”

While the majority of people already understand and comply with the measures, there have been reports of people failing to wear face coverings, gathering in groups and failing to observe two metre physical distancing in courtrooms.

Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service Chief Executive Eric McQueen has welcomed this reminder as courts reopen after the New Year:

“We have strictly followed Public Health Scotland guidance in preparing all of our buildings to create environments which are as safe as we can make them. While there is an increased risk of transmission from the new variant of COVID, the clinical advice is clear – provided the FACTS guidance is followed, the working environment will be as safe as possible.

“We realise that, over time, complacency and familiarity has crept in and disappointingly, there remains a small number of people who believe the rules do not apply to them. This is a time for everyone to be vigilant. We are renewing and refreshing our signage and distancing markers, our advisory information and asking everyone to make the courts and tribunals as safe as possible for all. This is about awareness and self-discipline – the physical environment has been properly prepared, we need everyone who comes to work in it, or visit it, to follow the measures in place to keep them safe. Our buildings are currently only open to those who need to be there for the purposes of court or tribunal proceedings. 

“There is much concern over accumulating delays to justice and the impact this has for accused, victims and witnesses. Our approach allows us to keep doing our critical work – even during the level 4 restrictions.  Our courts can continue to operate safely if all participants comply with the measures in place. This is vitally important as further sheriff and jury trials are scheduled to get underway this month.”

In addition to physical measures, almost all civil court and tribunal business is now conducted online or by telephone, reducing the number of people required to attend a court. Court starting times are varied to reduce numbers in our buildings at any one time and many custody cases are being heard virtually. The creation of remote jury centres provides physical distancing both in the court room for participants and for the jurors in their specialised centres.

Lord Carloway underlined that he and judicial colleagues would take any continued breaches very seriously. He said: “In some instances we may need to reinforce the importance of respecting safety measures by highlighting to those breaching requirements that the court may regard any future breach and any repeated breach as constituting a contempt of court.”

With further good news on the availability of vaccines, this is the time to redouble our efforts, not drop our guard – the basic principles are now more important than ever.  Follow the FACTS. By keeping our 2 metre distance at all times, wearing face coverings, cleaning our hands regularly and self-isolating if we display any symptoms we can keep ourselves and others safe.

 

Links:

Lord President’s video statement

Text of statement

Guidance for SCTS court and tribunal users during Coronavirus 31.12.20

 


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