Experts set to give evidence on resuming jury trials

SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen and Public Health Scotland's Dr Jim McMenamin will appear before MSPs.

Experts set to give evidence on resuming jury trials Getty Images

MSPs are to investigate the return of jury trials at a Holyrood committee hearing on Tuesday.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the decision was made to suspend new jury trials for some of the most serious cases in Scotland to stem the spread of the virus.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee will take evidence from Eric McQueen, the chief executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS), and Dr Jim McMenamin, the incident director for Covid-19 and interim clinical director of Public Health Scotland.

The committee estimates courts could have a backlog of up to 300 cases as a result of the pandemic.

An options paper was put forward by the Scottish Government last month with some possibilities for allowing cases to move forward, including reducing the number of jurors for each case, moving to venues more conducive to social distancing such as cinemas or scrapping juries entirely.

Speaking before the evidence session, convener Margaret Mitchell said: “The committee fully understands the decision to suspend most court proceedings, including new jury trials, at the outbreak of the Covid-19 health emergency.

“However, the courts and tribunals service are now facing the dilemma that will be familiar to many businesses and public sector organisations.

“There is a need to resume services, to ensure justice continues to be done, not least for the victims of crime whilst at the same time supporting public health and the safety of those working in and using the services of the court – including potential jurors.

“The committee looks forward to hearing from Public Health Scotland’s clinical experts as well as the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service itself about how courts might be able to achieve these competing demands and which decisions they might take as they seeks to overcome the hurdles which lie ahead.”

The jury trials working group was set up last week to look into possibilities for the continuation of the trials, with the committee expected to receive an update on the group’s work during the hearing.

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