Law Society raises court concerns with SCTS
The Law Society of Scotland has raised issues over solicitors’ ability to perform their jobs properly in courts with the courts service.
Amanda Millar, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said practitioners had expressed concern with the current arrangements and “their ability to play a full and effective part in the court process when representing their clients as a result of the new measures”.
She added: “These concerns include a lack of suitable provision within some courts for consultation with clients, sanitisation supplies and inadequate sanitisation of courtrooms between use, as well as clarity on the process for members to raise specific Covid-19 safety concerns.”
She also said there is currently no suitable provision for situations in which social distancing cannot be maintained.
“While it has been suggested that consultations should take place outwith the court building to maintain social distancing, there are unavoidable situations where consultations will require to take place shortly before or during a hearing and there currently seems to be no suitable provision for this.”
Ms Miller said: “We do not expect anyone to put their health at risk. We are in contact with the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service to alert them to the issues that have been raised with us and want to continue to take a collaborative approach to ensuring that all necessary health and safety measures can be put in place consistently across the court estate to protect those who are attending or work in our courts.
“It’s vital that the courts continue to run during the pandemic and we have also written to the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing to request that court practitioners are among those prioritised to receive the vaccine.”
The Glasgow Bar Association this week wrote to the Lord President after he suggested that failure to abide by the court rules could constitute contempt of court.
A Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service spokesman said: “Court buildings and courtrooms strictly adhere to Public Health Scotland guidance to minimise the potential transmission of the virus and continue to operate safely under the current restrictions.
“The Lord President has called on all court and tribunal users to abide by the protective measures already in place against Covid transmission in Scotland’s courts and tribunal buildings.
“He made it clear this is about reinforcing the rules for all at this difficult time with the purpose of ensuring that everyone who enters a court building is as safe as they can be. The same message has been shared with SCTS staff, judiciary and COPFS.
“The Lord President also reminded everyone that client consultations should take place prior to attending court wherever possible at this time.
“There will be occasions where it is not possible to consult or take instructions in advance. Where client instruction is required during a court hearing an adjournment should be sought. Consultations and instructions are taking place in person, by telephone or by digital means.
“We understand the additional anxiety and concerns being expressed, but the position remains as before that the measures in place are appropriate if the rules are followed by everyone.”