SCTS denies claims it ‘massages’ court statistics
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) has denied suggestions it may have altered court statistics to make it “appear as if we are getting through the backlog”.
Criminal defence solicitor Euan Gosney tweeted on November 19 that there “were approx 60+ summary trials in Edinburgh Sheriff Court today - barely a handful ran”. He asked whether the SCTS believed it could “efficiently process this number of cases (safely)” or whether it was simply an attempt to “massage stats making it appear as if we are getting through the backlog?”.
Darryl Love, of Keegan Smith, replied: “I was in court 15. My trial was the only one that ran. The first question was asked at 1540. There were 13 trials in that court.”
David Storrie, of Thorley Stephenson, said: “Court 12. Numerous trials down to call. My trial was the only one to run. First question at 3pm. Part heard.”
An SCTS spokesperson told Scottish Legal News, however, that there was “no question of any attempt to massage statistics, nor would there be any purpose in trying to do so”.
They added: “Each month SCTS publishes monthly information on actual criminal cases throughput, information that is fully compliant with the code of practice for official statistics.
“This monthly workbook shows the number of cases registered, the number of cases calling for trial, the number of evidence led trials, the number of cases concluded and the forecast number of outstanding trials.”
They said: “Edinburgh Sheriff Court safely ran six summary trial courts, all adhering to robust baseline safety measures. The loading of cases per trial court reflects the cases identified by the Crown and defence at the intermediate diet as cases that were ready for trial.
“The fact that few cases actually proceed to trial on the day results in delays and inconvenience for everyone, not least complainers, witnesses and the accused.
“It is essential that parties prepare thoroughly and effectively in advance of intermediate diets, and engage with each other. The aim of the Criminal Courts Practice Note 4 of 2020 is to ensure that only those cases which cannot be resolved and are ready to go to trial proceed to the assigned trial diet.
“In light of the backlog of cases which has built up as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, it is also vital to the efficient operation of the sheriff courts that valuable trial diets are not lost by last minute adjournments or late guilty pleas.”