Justice secretary pledges more action to clear courts backlog

Scotland's justice secretary said the government will go further than the £50m pledged.

Justice secretary pledges more action to clear courts backlog iStock

More action to clear the backlog in Scotland’s courts system has been pledged by the justice secretary, amid concerns about the length of time many people are staying on remand.

Keith Brown said the Scottish Government will go further than the £50m pledged to speed up the justice system following the delays caused by the pandemic.

The backlog of Sheriff and High Court solemn cases is expected to last until 2025, with summary trial backlogs lasting until 2024.

MSPs on Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee quizzed the minister about the issue on Wednesday.

Conservative MSP Jamie Greene described the backlog as “huge”, saying he had recently spoken to a remand prisoner at HMP Edinburgh whose case had been delayed twice with no prospect of a trial within the next six months.

Greene said: “There are clearly human rights aspects to this, we can’t lock people up indefinitely.

“These are young lives which are possibly being ruined because they’re being stuck in a prison cell for two, maybe three years waiting on their trial.”

Brown said ministers will set out further action in the upcoming Programme for Government.

He said: “We’re looking to take early action in relation to remand, not least for the reasons you have mentioned.

“We are very conscious of the human rights of those involved.

“Also – if you’ve never experienced the justice system before – the impact it can have on you, your family, your employment and all sorts of things.

“The situation we’re in is arising from the pandemic and like many other jurisdictions we want to do the best we can to mitigate the effects of that.”

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