COP26 and Omicron had ‘significant impact’ on criminal case throughput

COP26 and Omicron had 'significant impact' on criminal case throughput

Evidence led trials in Scotland decreased by 15 per cent to 1,716 in Q3 2021/22 compared to Q2, new figures show.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) quarterly statistical bulletin contains figures on activity in all High, Sheriff, Justice of the Peace and criminal appeal courts with national trends as well as detailed figures for local courts in solemn and summary criminal business.

The latest bulletin shows the COP26 conference and the Covid Omicron variant in Q3 2021/22 had a significant impact on criminal throughput. However, the additional 16 trial courts (introduced under the courts recovery plan in Q2) helped to mitigate that impact so that a total of 19,783 cases were concluded in all criminal courts in Q3 2021/22 – a decrease of 18 per cent from Q2 but an increase of 22 per cent from Q1. 

Other highlights include:

  • There were 21,800 first instance criminal cases registered in Scottish courts in Q3 2021/22 which is three per cent higher than Q2 2021/22.  
  • The number of trials scheduled has risen by 1.1 per cent to 43,016 when scheduled trials at the end of December 2021 are compared to those still to call as at the end of September 2021. 
  • In Q3 2021/22, domestic abuse cases accounted for 24 per cent of Sheriff Summary registrations; 33 per cent of Sheriff Summary trials called and 41 per cent of Sheriff Summary trials in which evidence was led. 
  • Domestic abuse scheduled trials decreased by five per cent to 6,547 between Q2 and Q3.

SCTS executive director court operations, David Fraser, said: “Our court buildings continue to operate in accordance with guidance from Public Health Scotland to safeguard our staff, judiciary and court users.

“The United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) ran from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow and to prepare for such a significant international event, we revised some of our court operations in consultation with key Justice Partners to ensure we effectively managed court business and dealt with the anticipated impact on Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts in particular.  Summary trials were suspended for three weeks to 12 November and Sheriff Solemn trials were suspended for two weeks.

“The figures also reflect the impact of the Covid Omicron variant which resulted in reduced summary criminal trial loadings during Q3 2021/22 to manage overall footfall in the courts and an increased number of adjournments due to self-isolation requirements. The additional 16 trial courts introduced on 6 September 2021 mitigated the impact of COP26 and the Covid Omicron variant.

“Criminal first instance business is making progress due to the excellent collaboration across the judiciary, justice organisations, the legal profession and the third sector which has helped get court business back on track. This collaboration remains crucial during the recovery programme and the anticipated increase in case registrations.” 

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