RESTRICTIONS and regulations imposed on Scotland’s courts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are to continue into next year, it was announced at the weekend.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS) stated that after Health Secretary Humza Yousaf’s statement on increased efforts to combat the virus, made to the Scottish Parliament last Tuesday, it has decided to maintain all existing safety measures for the next three months until the end of January 2022.

SCTS said: “While the presumption remains that the majority of civil procedural business will continue to be heard virtually, the guidance enables substantive Inner House and Criminal Appeal Court business to be heard in-person by default.

“All other civil business in the Court of Session and Sheriff Court will continue to be conducted virtually, unless the court allows an in-person hearing on cause shown.”

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The legal requirement for face coverings to be worn in SCTS buildings will continue and the guidance for face coverings in the court room will remain in place.

For criminal cases in the High Court, when it comes to hearings for sentencing, accused persons remanded in custody may appear by video link. Those accused persons released on bail must attend court in person unless their attendance has been excused.

In Sheriff Court civil cases the guidance states that “all procedural civil hearings will, unless otherwise directed by the court, continue to be conducted remotely”.

SCTS added: “All other civil hearings will also be conducted remotely. Only where cause is shown in circumstances, where physical distancing can be adhered to, will the physical presence of witnesses be permitted. Fatal Accident Inquiries will also be conducted remotely, unless the court directs otherwise.

The updated guidance will apply from November 15, SCTS stated.

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Eric McQueen, chief executive of SCTS, said: “Although case levels have reduced from their peak in early September, they remain at a high level. The virus has not gone away and we need to continue to do all we can to keep ourselves, our colleagues and all who use our buildings safe.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have taken a safety-first approach to our business. We continue to have some of the most robust measures in place across our buildings to maintain both safety and the throughput of business.

“The revisions to the operations of the Supreme, sheriff and Justice of the Peace courts are able to be made due to those measures being in place and as a result of ongoing collaboration with colleagues across the justice sector.

“As we look to a post-pandemic world, this collaboration will continue to be vital so that we can build on the innovative approaches used during the pandemic. By doing so we can further improve the system balancing safety, accessibility and the best use of processes to protect people’s rights and enhance access to justice.”