Coronavirus: Falkirk Sheriff Court to be impacted by justice system changes

A number of changes have been made to the Scottish justice system in response to the outbreak of coronavirus.

The new measures will now take effect at Falkirk Sheriff Court and throughout the country from today as the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) aims to ensure the public can maintain trust and confidence that justice continues, while ensuring the health of those using courts and tribunals is protected.

The programme of changes to criminal court business, together with changes to civil court business, tribunal hearings and the work of the Office of the Public Guardian, will provide a sustainable response during this outbreak, the SCTS has said.

The arrangements will reduce the requirement for physical attendance at courts or hearings whenever possible.

Falkirk Sheriff Court.

The arrangements prioritise essential or exceptional business and have been made to support a managed recovery when that is possible.

The offices of the courts and tribunals and the Office of the Public Guardian will remain open to ensure essential business can still be dealt with.

However, unless individuals are required for proceedings, they should not attend courts or tribunal premises.

These arrangements will be reviewed regularly.

In relation to criminal business, it was announced on Monday no new criminal jury trials would begin, nor would juries be empanelled, until further notice.Jury trials under way at that date would continue to the conclusion of the trial, if practical to do so.

As of today, there will be a significant reduction in summary criminal trials.

A focus will be placed on custody trials and by exception a small number of non-custody trials where witnesses are available. Non-custody trials are likely to be limited to cases relating to domestic abuse, sexual offending and violence.

The SCTS is also looking at ways of increasing opportunities to pre-record evidence, enable evidence to be given from other locations and expand the use of technology.

The following changes have been made to High Court, Sheriff and jury business within 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)

- 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 three months, to either a new preliminary hearing/first diet court or a trial diet

Changes to Sheriff Court Summary and Justice of the Peace business are as follows:

- 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 there is 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

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