"Innovative and flexible thinking" will be needed in the courts to support justice in the months ahead, according to the Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle of Grampian, Highland & Islands.

The sheriff principal, who last week heard the first case in the sheriff courts to be argued via remote video link, said the situation in the courts had been tough but was "probably going to get tougher", with coronavirus likely to be around for some time.

He commented that dealing with the case remotely had enabled journalists from all over the world to link in, including one from the New York Times, while in many cases members of the public could easily listen in.

"The courts have made remarkable progress in just a matter of weeks. We now have state-of-the-art videoconferencing facilities in Inverness and will have the same in Aberdeen when we are ready to get started again once lockdown is gradually relaxed", the sheriff principal added.

"Introducing the WebEx system has allowed us to do so much more and offers us the opportunity in the months ahead to revolutionise the way court business, whether criminal or civil, is dealt with.

"When courts reopen, social distancing requirements will mean we can’t return to business as it used to be. Some virtual courts and online hearings will remain in place."

Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service, "a forward looking organisation", was working extremely hard to meet the challenges while ensuring public safety; and co-operation by all court users was one of the strengths of the sheriffdom and "has been displayed again and again over the last couple of months by everyone from sheriffs and court staff to prosecutors, solicitors and police officers. All have played their part in keeping the show on the road”.

He concluded: "Courts and court users will be living with coronavirus for some time and that will require innovative and flexible thinking as well as commitment to make sure we continue to support justice in our communities."