Amanda Millar, President of the Law Society of Scotland, comments on the Lord President, Lord Carloway’s statement today, Friday 19 June 2020.

“I’m very pleased that Lord Carloway has recognised the huge effort by all those involved in our justice system to overcome the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic in his comments today. Public health and keeping people safe are core principles which guide us through these difficult times.

“Technology has played a key role in the changes that have been introduced in recent weeks, alongside an immense amount of hard work and a collegiate approach in reforming how we work within such a short timescale. Three months ago it would have been unimaginable to most of us, that we could be conducting a trial remotely and yet this is now a reality. It’s encouraging that the Lord President takes the view that some of these recent changes will become  permanent features of our justice system.

“A number of new procedures have been introduced, such as written guilty pleas, and several virtual summary (non-jury) trials have now been conducted successfully. The working group led by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, has brought forward innovative proposals to allow jury trials to restart next month, and make sure all those involved, including jury members, can participate in a safe and socially distanced manner. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the two jury trials scheduled to take place in July in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The two models used will help with future decisions on how High Court trials can be progressed.

“Of course there is more work to be done, and there will need to be adequate resources and training to continue to deal with the backlog of cases from the early days of lockdown. However, we would reiterate that we don’t believe that this is the time to make fundamental changes to the Scottish criminal justice system, such as instituting judge-only trials.

“The profession is playing a full role, working with all those involved in the justice system in developing solutions to ensure that we have a fair and effective criminal justice system during this challenging period and beyond.”

Coronavirus update

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