Summary Criminal Business to resume from 19 April

Apr 12, 2021

SCTS can today confirm that the scheduled resumption of Sheriff Court summary criminal business will go ahead from Monday 19 April.  The majority of summary trials in the Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court had been adjourned since January due to lockdown restrictions, with criminal courts focussed on custody trials and  the most serious cases.

In view of the recent easing of lockdown restrictions, Sheriff Court cited cases will re-start on 19 April, with trial courts returning to the pre-January lockdown loadings of three programmed trials and two back-up cases with witnesses on standby. Plans are in place for Justice of the Peace Courts to re-start all business on 7 June.

SCTS Chief Executive Eric McQueen said: “The safety of staff, judiciary and court users remains our top priority and is central to our plans to safely resume court business on 19 April. Based on the latest COVID data, we are taking a cautious approach to restore summary criminal business to pre-January lockdown levels, in line with the wider phased easing of restrictions announced by the Scottish Government.”

“We will continue to be guided by public health advice and to monitor case levels.  The extensive measures we have in place to ensure the safest possible working environment will be maintained, to minimise potential transmission so the courts can continue to operate safely.”

In relation to other business types, all criminal jury trials in the High Court and Sheriff Court will continue as planned and all new custody cases and summary custody trials in the Sheriff Courts and Justice of the Peace courts will continue to be heard.

All intermediate diets, priority trials and remand hearings in the Sheriff Court will continue. All High Court criminal appeals, civil appeals and the Sheriff Appeal Court, Bail Appeal Court, Office of the Public Guardian and Tribunals will continue to operate virtually and remotely, as they have been doing throughout the pandemic.

Similarly, the vast majority of civil business in the Court of Session, Scottish Land Court and Sheriff Court will continue to be conducted remotely. This includes the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court (ASSPIC).

The following guidance sets out in more detail the arrangements which will apply as the restrictions are eased.  These arrangements will be regularly reviewed in line with any changes to the public health measures.


Witnesses and jurors

Witnesses cited to attend the Sheriff Court for a summary criminal trial before Monday 19 April, should not attend unless they are contacted directly by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) or the solicitor acting for the accused.

 Witnesses cited to attend the Sheriff Court for a summary criminal trial after Monday 19 April should attend as per their citation unless otherwise directed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) or the solicitor acting for the accused.

Jurors and witnesses cited to appear for a High Court or Sheriff Court Solemn trial (this means jurors attending a remote jury centre) should continue to do so. These facilities have been specifically designed to provide a safe environment for jurors during the pandemic – and support the administration of justice in relation to the most serious criminal cases.

Face coverings

In those cases that continue to be heard in person at this time, physical distancing can, and must, be maintained at all times.  Face coverings must be worn at all times whilst moving around SCTS buildings, unless the person has an exemption.  In recognition of the fact that a number of individuals may need to be present in a courtroom, the Lord President has instructed  the requirement for face coverings to be worn while in court rooms, as an additional measure – over and above the need to fully observe the FACTS advice – full face covering guidance in court is available here.

Client consultation

Minimising face-to-face meetings within court buildings reduces the risk of transmission. Where possible, consultations should take place outwith the court estate. However, it is acknowledged there may be occasions where it is not possible to consult or take instructions on a particular matter in advance of the day of a court hearing.

Where client instruction or consultation is required during a court hearing, an adjournment can be sought. Where it is required prior to a hearing, we will do our best during this period to facilitate local arrangements, using currently unoccupied accommodation.

Safety remains our top priority

Throughout the pandemic, we have been guided by Public Health advice and have ensured that our facilities meet the standards required for non-healthcare settings allowed to operate at this time. Those visiting our buildings in the coming days will notice refreshed signage that has been installed to help remind everyone of the need to observe the arrangements in place. A safe working environment is a combination of the facilities and the way in which everyone uses them. SCTS is relying on everyone to redouble their efforts to help keep everyone safe

Please read the detailed guidance for court and tribunal users during coronavirus.

As we move towards what we all hope will be a more stable position over the spring and summer SCTS would like to thank all court users, judiciary and staff for their continuing compliance at this exceptional time. Together we can support justice – safely.

Right-hand Menu