Scheduled trials rise due to increase in sex crime reporting

The number of High Court scheduled trials in Scotland has risen almost 50% in the past year.

The number of High Court scheduled trials in Scotland has risen almost 50% in the past year due to increased reporting of sexual offending cases, according to a new report.

Provisional figures from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) show there were 390 trials scheduled at the end of the fourth quarter in 2019-20, up 45.5% when compared to the position at the end of that quarter in 2018-19.

The SCTS said the high volume of High Court trials has been attributed to increased reporting of sexual offending cases.

The number of summary trials scheduled at sheriff courts also rose, increasing by 24% between 2018-19 and 2019-20 with 13,971 trials still to call as at the end of March 2020.

The number of solemn trials scheduled fell by 7% over that period.

Across the criminal courts, the overall number of scheduled trials has increased by 14.4% in 2019-20 compared to the previous year.

The SCTS noted that as new jury trials are suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic the number of trials scheduled will have continued to grow further.

David Fraser, SCTS chief operations officer, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to publish these figures in spite of the difficulties caused by the global pandemic.

“I am pleased, too, to note that criminal appeals data has been included in a full year of quarterly criminal court bulletins to further complete the information available on criminal cases.

“This publication is intended to be of use to anyone with an interest in the flow of activity through Scotland’s criminal courts and is expected to be of particular interest to legal practitioners and researchers.”

The bulletin shows that during the financial year 2019-20, nearly 94,000 cases were concluded at courts around Scotland.

The SCTS said that as most court buildings closed during March amid the coronavirus pandemic, the data for that month may not be complete and has therefore been marked as provisional.

Across criminal courts, the percentage of trials adjourned due to lack of court time fell from 5.6% in 2014-15 to 2.9% in 2019-20.

Meanwhile, the volume of criminal appeals registered dropped between 2014-15 and 2019-20 by 16% to 1241 appeals.

Of the appeals registered in 2019-20, two-thirds (66%) relate to those solely against sentence, 15% relate to those solely against conviction and 19% relate to a joint appeal against conviction and sentence.

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