Trial backlog could take a ‘number of years’ to clear

However, justice secretary Keith Brown praised the 'fantastic innovation' of remote jury centres within cinemas.

By Jenness Mitchell & Vanessa Kennedy

Scotland’s new justice secretary has said it may take “a number of years” to clear the trial backlog in the country’s courts.

However, Keith Brown praised the “fantastic innovation” of remote jury centres within cinemas.

The MSP said the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) had “risen to the challenge” brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

During a visit to the Odeon jury centre at Fort Kinnaird in Edinburgh on Wednesday, the MSP said: “A fantastic innovation that we have here. And some of this will give rise to ongoing innovations which will help the administration of justice in future.”

Brown said “certain elements” will continue to be implemented once out of the pandemic to make the court process more efficient.

He explained: “So, for example, the giving of evidence remotely will be much more widespread in future, I’d imagine.

“And also some of the benefits that we’ve seen here, so the adjourning of a court which can sometimes take 15-20 minutes, there are ways that we can truncate that in future.”

The justice secretary said that by September there should be 20 high court trial courts operational, an increase of four from the current 16.

Brown highlighted that the remote centres have played a hugely important role in allowing jury trials to proceed during lockdown.

He added: “And to find out that currently even under these restrictions they’re sometimes exceeding 100% of what they would have done before, so it’s been a tremendous effort by everybody involved to make sure that we can continue to keep the justice system working.”

Speaking about the backlog, Brown stated: “There was a backlog before we started, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

“We know it’s increased, and we know it’s increased in England and Wales.

“You could be talking about potentially a number of years to get back on top of that backlog, and what we’re trying to do just now is use innovations like this to try and reduce that time it might take to eliminate that backlog.”

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