Civil justice in Scotland goes online

Civil justice in Scotland goes online

Court of Session Inner House appeals will recommence from next Tuesday, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has announced.

Following work by the SCTS’s digital team over the Easter holiday period, new systems have been set up to maintain civil justice during the lockdown.

Operating as a virtual court under the CISCO WebEx video conferencing platform, with a three-judge bench, two channels will be available to each party for counsel and instructing solicitors.

Multiple channels will also be available to media and interested persons to view the entire virtual court proceedings.

With initial configuration and internal testing complete, parties involved in the first appeal hearings will be invited to take part in testing and familiarisation over the next few days.

SCTS is also increasing its capability for judges and clerks in the Outer House to work remotely and will be issuing further information later this week on restarting priority areas of Outer House business using telephone conference facilities.

In the Sheriff Court, a system is being piloted which will enable all legal representation for custody and remand cases to take place remotely using telephone links, removing the need for physical attendance by solicitors or accused. SCTS will also introduce video links for legal representation in custody trials. This will be rolled out on 21st of April and full guidance will be published this week.

Civil business in the sheriff courts is currently limited to urgent and necessary cases during the lockdown period. The courts are making use of telephone conferencing to support urgent business and continue to encourage the use of written submissions. A similar approach is being taken across the work of the devolved tribunals, where essential hearings of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland continue to take place via telephone conference.

SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen said: “The Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society are rightly both challenging and collaborative in helping to find solutions. The measures we are putting in place this week are a big step forward, however, while we remain in lock down, any steps must be proportionate to the requirement to protect public health.

“Since social distancing measures and the effective lockdown of our communities came into place three weeks ago, everyone’s daily lives have changed dramatically. We do not know how long this will last, but we do know that it is critical to delay the spread of the virus, to protect the NHS and most importantly to save lives.

“My priorities remain protecting our staff, the judiciary and wider courts and tribunal users, while maintaining public confidence that the essential justice services we are responsible for can continue.”

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