Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Scotland‘s criminal justice system is so beset by delays that High Court criminal trials are taking an average of a year to get going.

The admission was made by Eric McQueen, Chief Executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, who said: “Scheduled cases are twice the normal level and the average waiting period for trials has doubled to 12 months in the High Court, 15 months in Sheriff Solemn and 6 months in Sheriff Summary.

“We are working closely with the judiciary, Scottish Government, justice organisations, the legal profession and the third sector to find solutions to reduce delays.”

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) published the second monthly workbook to show the throughput of criminal cases in the courts.

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SCTS stated: “Our courts are an essential public service and are open for business. Despite the Covid-19 restrictions we have put stringent measures in place to enable them to operate in a safe manner, protecting the health of our staff, judiciary and court users.

“Since the first full month’s criminal programme in September, we can see continued progress towards pre-Covid levels, both in trials and cases resolved without trial.”

Scottish Conservative Shadow Justice spokesperson Liam Kerr: “It's astonishing the backlog has reached this level and it is clear this cannot only be blamed on the pandemic.

“Thousands of victims are waiting far too long to get the justice they need and deserve.

“The SNP government needs to urgently step up its game and ensure the backlog does not spiral out of control.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We understand the impact trial delays have on victims, witnesses and accused, and have provided £12 million to the SCTS for remote High Court and Sheriff jury centres to restore pre-Covid court capacity, on top of £3 million to develop court technology.

“The latest figures show that evidence led summary trials are now 83% of the average monthly pre-Covid levels.

“A new structure, led by a Criminal Justice Board, has been established to co-ordinate recovery activity, including in the criminal courts.”