Scotland’s most senior judge has stated that using cinemas as remote jury centres has “worked well”, with no apparent significant difference in verdicts returned.
Trials using a cinema complex to host juries first began in September 2020.
The measure was introduced in response to a backlog in cases, exacerbated by the pandemic.
Jurors, who could be accommodated at a physical distance to each other, were featured on a video wall.
It had been intended to last for six months, but was extended as the pandemic continued.
On Monday, the Lord President Lord Carloway introduced the opening of the legal year in the first full bench ceremony since the pandemic began in March 2020.
In a speech, Lord Carloway explained that juries had “no apparent difficulty” in assessing witnesses on screen.
There also did not appear to be any significant statistical difference in the verdicts that they returned, he stated.
However, more research is required, Lord Carloway added.
“The cinema model has worked well. Most juries are now back in the courtroom, but some of the remote centres will be retained simply to enable us to get through trials as quickly as is compatible with the interests of justice,” he said.
“There have been many lessons learnt from the cinema experience. First and foremost, the system works. There does not appear to be any significant statistical difference in the verdicts returned.
“The juries had no apparent difficulty in assessing witnesses on screen. More research is no doubt needed on both of these aspects.”
Lord Carloway also confirmed that remote balloting will remain in place.
He said: “Balloting in open court will not return. Rather, remote balloting, which does not require anyone to come to court unless they have been selected to sit on the jury, or are one of a very few reserves, will continue.
“It saves money and most important, it reduces inconvenience to others.”
A taskforce is being headed up by Lord Pentland into the permanent use of live-streaming in courts, Lord Carloway also indicated.
“We continue to strive to improve access to, and the transparency of, the courts,” he said.
“The advent of new technology means that we can open up the courts to a wider public.
“In November 2021, an appeal hearing in the Court of Session was live-streamed for the first time. This was well received. Other live streaming has followed.
“Lord Pentland is heading up a task force with the aim of putting in place a permanent system, starting with the Appellate Divisions.
“A trial of the system took place in July and it is hoped that it will be up and running soon.
“Live streaming will not be appropriate for all hearings. A decision will be made based on the circumstances of each particular case.”