The Law Society of Scotland President has written to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) encouraging continued collaboration and the need to acknowledge and show understanding of the increasing pressures on the profession during a period of rising Covid-19 cases.
In a letter to SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen this week, Law Society President Ken Dalling said the profession had shown an exceptional level of understanding and accommodation in dealing with the current challenges on the courts. He also highlighted the need for understanding of the pressures on solicitors to reduce tensions and mental strain of an already stressful undertaking, during such a challenging time.
He has urged that, while continuing to be flexible, a five-day notice period is retained for changes to court cases to allow time to notify all those involved, including accused and witnesses, of any alternations.
Mr Dalling pointed out that there has been a ‘positive reaction’ from solicitors following the SCTS decision not to return to the hub court system but to continue to use all sheriff courts. He said: “We appreciate this will itself be challenging as requirements to isolate start to affect more people, but on balance we believe that using the greatest part of the court estate will reduce the risk of transmission.”
SCTS Chief Executive Eric McQueen, in his response, agreed on the need for understanding, commenting in response that the 'coming weeks may arguably be the most challenging time of the pandemic with increasing positive cases numbers, high levels of self-isolation and the potential for further government restrictions'. Mr McQueen said there had been benefits from strong collaboration and it would be even more important in the coming weeks as the extent and impact of the Omicron variant became clearer.
In his letter Mr McQueen confirmed that SCTS would try to continue with as much business in the courts as possible and would do so as long as that remained safe and viable. Jury trials are set to continue as programmed, the PIDM process will continue to enable resolution of as many cases as possible, Sheriff summary trials are proceeding with an added focus on ensuring priority trials are prepared and ready to run and the switch JP notional trials present the opportunity to resolve cases with the accused present.