Cinema to host remote jury for High Court trial this month

The scheme is being rolled out amid a huge backlog of court cases caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Cinema to host remote jury for High Court trial this month Getty Images

A high court jury trial will be held in a Scottish cinema later this month, amid a huge backlog of cases caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Odeon cinema at Ford Kinnaird in Edinburgh will host the first remote jury on September 28, with the firm’s complex at Braehead on the outskirts of Glasgow hosting from October 12.

After a successful pilot scheme, the Scottish Government supplied £5.5m for the courts service to set up as many as 16 complexes in the east and west of Scotland.

These remote jury centres are a first in the UK.

Cinemas were chosen due to having high levels of digital connectivity and secure IT infrastructure, soundproofed rooms and space to socially distance.

As part of the contract, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) will use the cinemas from Monday to Friday.

The venues will remain open for cinema-goers at weekends from 6pm on Friday through to Sunday night.

SCTS courtrooms are being fitted out with the cameras and technology necessary to broadcast the trials to the cinema screens and to receive the video wall of jurors into the courtroom.

Balloting the jury is done in the courtroom in advance and only the 15 jurors, plus a small number of substitutes, will arrive at the cinemas for the trials, with each jury being supported by a court officer.

Masks will be available to jurors on arrival for this purpose but will not be required to be worn in the jury room.

SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen said: “We are grateful to Odeon Cinemas for working alongside us to make the concept of remote jury centres a reality.

“We need to move swiftly to increase the number of high court trials taking place and we will do this incrementally as soon as we can.”

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf has welcomed the move, saying it has drawn interest from the rest of the UK.

He added: “The Scottish Government has provided £5.5m funding for these remote jury centres which allow serious criminal cases to proceed, therefore providing reassurance to victims, witnesses and accused who have been adversely affected by case delays.

“Work is ongoing to consider what further actions may be required to address the backlog and for remote jury centres to be further rolled out for sheriff and jury cases.”