Less serious criminal cases are to fully resume in Scotland’s courts after more than three months of suspension owing to lockdown.
Sheriff court summary criminal cases – where a sheriff hears a case sitting alone without a jury – are to recommence from next Monday, said the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).
Most summary trials, under which the maximum jail term is 12 months and the biggest fine is £10,000, have been halted since January because of coronavirus restrictions.
Criminal courts have been prioritising the most serious trials, for crimes like rape and murder.
The SCTS is currently grappling with a backlog of cases due to the pandemic and last month announced plans for more court capacity to clear the pile-up.
It predicted even with the extra resources, summary trial backlogs may not be cleared until 2024, while the logjam of trials at the high court and in sheriff solemn cases – where a sheriff sits with a jury – may not be cleared until 2025.
From September, there will be four additional high courts, two additional sheriff courts for solemn cases and up to ten more sheriff courts for summary cases.
SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen said: “The safety of staff, judiciary and court users remains our top priority and is central to our plans to safely resume court business on April 19.
“Based on the latest Covid data, we are taking a cautious approach to restore summary criminal business to pre-January lockdown levels, in line with the wider phased easing of restrictions announced by the Scottish Government.”
The SCTS said physical distancing and mask-wearing is mandatory in its buildings.
It added that justice of the peace courts, which hear minor cases and can impose punishments of up to 60 days in prison or fines up to £2500, are expected to restart all matters on June 7.