High Court cases heard last month continued above pre-pandemic levels, but sheriff and JP court throughput fell below these due to the impact of COP26, according to the latest monthly figures from Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service.

SCTS's monthly workbook for November shows that during October 2021: 

  • 54 High Court evidence led trials commenced (compared with 47 in September and 55 in August), which is 29% higher than the average pre-COVID level. 
  • 70 High Court cases were concluded, which is 104% of the average pre-COVID level (September's figure was 62; August's 76).
  • 70 sheriff solemn evidence led trials commenced, which is 74% of the average pre-COVID level (there were 95 in September and 83 in August).
  • 403 sheriff solemn cases were concluded, which is 94% of the average pre-COVID level (439 in September; 453 in August). 
  • 439 sheriff summary evidence led trials commenced, which is 76% of the average pre-COVID levels (September saw 551; August 459).
  • 4,099 sheriff summary cases were concluded, which is 86% of the average pre-COVID level (September saw 5,186; August 4,654). 
  • 2,022 Justice of the Peace cases were concluded, which is 79% of the average pre-COVID level (September saw 2,498; August 2,797). 

The overall level of new cases registered was 81% of the average monthly pre-COVID level, the same as in September (August saw 82%). Petitions, which provide a useful indicator of future solemn business, were 10% higher than the average monthly pre-COVID level (down from 16% higher in September and 30% in August).

The overall level of cases concluded was 84% of the average monthly pre-COVID level, down from 105% in August.

David Fraser, executive director, Court Operations at SCTS commented: "The United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) ran from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow. In order to release police officers to prepare for such a significant international event, sheriff summary trials and justice of the peace trials across Scotland were suspended during the last week of October, with all sheriff court and JP court trials then suspended for the duration of COP26. 

"The excellent collaboration across the judiciary, justice organisations, the legal profession and the third sector is helping to effectively manage court business, including the ongoing delivery of the recovery programme."

SCTS has denied suggestions that it was "massaging" statistics to make it look as if it was getting through the backlog, saying there would be no purpose in doing so.

The workbook is available at: www.scotcourts.gov.uk/official-statistics