SCOTTISH courts are heavily reducing the number of criminal trials taking place in an effort to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Lord President has announced that, during the new lockdown, criminal courts will focus on the most serious trials. The majority of summary trials in sheriff courts will be adjourned.

The new arrangements, which began yesterday (Tuesday, January 12), have been introduced in response to the spread of the new variant of COVID-19.

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A spokesperson for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said: “These [new arrangements] will significantly reduce the number of people required to attend court in person, whilst ensuring that the most essential business is maintained in the interests of justice and the safety of those involved.”

The number of criminal trials taking place during lockdown will be cut by up to 75 per cent, the spokesperson said.

Courts are following advice from Public Health Scotland on how to minimise the chance of transmission, the spokesperson added. 

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All new custody cases and summary custody trials in sheriff courts will proceed.

However, all non-custody trials will be administratively adjourned, the spokesperson said, with the provision to accelerate priority or urgent trials, such as those involving allegations of domestic abuse or child witnesses. A number of procedural hearings will also be administratively adjourned.

All criminal criminal jury trials in the High Court and sheriff courts will continue. These will focus on the most serious cases, where people are in custody and where offences include sexual offences and offences involving domestic abuse and children.

The spokesperson added: “We would like to thank all court users, judiciary and staff for their continuing compliance at this exceptional time. Together we can support justice – safely.”