SCTS report finds improvement at ‘receiving’ courts in wake of closures, but problems persist elsewhere

Ross Yuill

A report published this week found that courts that took on business in the wake of closures have performed well – but issues still persist elsewhere.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) states that the vision set out in an earlier report, Shaping Scotland’s Court Services, is “fully on track”.

In all receiving courts the 16 week waiting period between the first calling availability of a criminal trial is being achieved and in some courts the SCTS has re-adjusted the programme as the waiting period was becoming short, with the risk of not allowing sufficient time for crown and defence preparation.

Similarly, all receiving courts are meeting, and in most cases are “significantly below”, the 12 week waiting period for civil proofs and hearings.

This level of performance is being achieved against the background of a “significant increase in case levels in both summary and solemn business, particularly in relation to domestic abuse and sexual offences, with a far greater proportion of these cases proceeding to evidence-led trials.”

However, solicitor advocate Ross Yuill told Scottish Legal News that the last five years have seen a “significant downturn” in the number of cases reaching Glasgow Sheriff Court.

“We see significantly less cases prosecuted on a daily basis. There is clearly a policy decision by Police Scotland and the Procurator Fiscal’s office to refer less cases to the court and deal with certain crimes by fixed penalties and warning letters,” he said.

“The number of custody cases each day in Glasgow Sheriff Court has fallen dramatically over that same five year period.

“Earlier this month on one specific day there were only two custody cases scheduled to call in Glasgow JP Court custody court. That is unheard of in the lifetime of any solicitor practising in Glasgow.”

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