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First steps in re-starting jury trials in Scotland

By Lorna Thompson

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THE first steps have been set out to restart Scottish jury trials from July following lockdown suspension.

Scotland's second most senior judge, Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, is leading a working group with representatives from across the justice system.

Lady Dorrian said today that planning was under way for a number of High Court jury trials to take place in Glasgow and Edinburgh in July – with measures to ensure social distancing including the jury taking up the public gallery.

She said: "The courts have been working extremely hard to deliver justice in the current circumstances.

"The challenges in conducting 15-person jury trials in a physically distanced environment cannot be underestimated.

"A pool of jurors must be cited, assembled and balloted in a way which respects social distancing guidelines. The court facilities must be configured to ensure the safety of all those involved in the trial, including access for the public and for the media, whilst at the same time ensuring effective participation of all the main participants.

"However, thanks to the constructive input of all those on the working group, we have identified the steps needed for the first trials to take place in Edinburgh and Glasgow in July.

The Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian.
The Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian.

"There is still plenty of work to do before this can become a reality, however. The details are now being worked through, and specific plans will be developed for different approaches in each location."

When lockdown began, the Lord Justice General, Lord Carloway, determined that public health protection requirements meant that jury trials could not take place in a suitably safe and secure manner. It was recognised that there was a need to explore ways to restart trials when Scottish Government guidelines were altered to allow greater activity.

The working group includes representatives of the judiciary, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Faculty of Advocates, Law Society of Scotland, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, Rape Crisis Scotland and the Scottish Government.

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