Scotland’s courts facing huge backlog of cases due to Covid

Justice minister Keith Brown praises workers in the criminal justice system as he visits new facility in Inverness.

Scotland’s courts facing huge backlog of cases due to Covid STV News
New Justice Centre has opened in Inverness.

It will be years before Scotland’s courts clear the backlog of criminal and civil cases derailed by the pandemic, according to Justice Minister Keith Brown.

He was speaking during a visit to the new Justice Centre in Inverness, becoming the first Scottish Government representative to do so.

An official opening of the £23m venue was shelved last year because of Covid.  The facility opened briefly in March 2020 but was soon shut down due to the risk to public health.

Brown praised staff who ensured some cases could eventually go ahead.

He said: “It has been tough, it’s been tough for everybody, And I think as well as just doing their jobs in the justice system, they’ve had to deal with people who are also feeling the pressures of the pandemic as well.

“What I think they have done extremely well is to make sure that people are put at their ease in terms of public safety and health.

“For example, the establishment of remote juries has reassured people serving on juries that they’re doing that in a safe environment.”

The minister also said a long awaited new Inverness prison, to replace the city’s ageing and often overcrowded Porterfield jail, would be built and operational by 2026.

Much would depend on the Covid situation but he also cited Brexit as a potential hurdle due to access to building materials and labour provision.

Innovation has been key to keeping the wheels of justice turning since courts around Scotland swung back into action. with video technology being particularly crucial.

Scottish Courts Service chief executive Eric McQueen said: “There’s always been a good level of collaborative working.

“But I think if there’s one good thing that’s come out of the pandemic it’s the way that people have really tried to pull together to find the creative solutions that are required, to maybe test barriers that in a non pandemic world would have taken a long time to get there. But, actually, we’ve moved at some real pace.”

The service’s ingenuity in adapting to the pandemic means high court trials are expected to fully resume in early September.