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Public Access to Courts and Tribunals During COVID-19

The principle of open justice and the need to ensure the safety of anyone who enters a court or tribunal building at this time are paramount considerations. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, these considerations are, to a degree, in conflict. For public health reasons, difficult decisions have had to be made. It is not possible to grant public access to courts or tribunals at this time.

Our courts and tribunals are subject to the Scottish Government’s physical distancing requirements.  This limits the number of people who can be present in our buildings at any time. Access to court buildings is limited to only those directly concerned with the conduct of proceedings, or as directed by the judiciary. Participants are given priority to ensure courts and tribunals can continue to operate and the risk to public health is minimised.

Observing open justice is essential to the rule of law. At this time of crisis, journalists, as observers and reporters to the public, continue to have access to our courts and to remote hearings.

Where remote, online proceedings are taking place, we are providing, as a minimum, audio access for observers and members of the public when that is possible and permitted by legislation. We expect the number of accessible hearings to increase.

We intend to do more to assist the public to identify and join remote hearings. The presiding judge will always determine whether proceedings can safely be broadcast to all in the interests of justice.

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