Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service will maintain all existing COVID-19 safety measures in court buildings until the end of January 2022.
The decision follows last week's announcement by Humza Yousaf, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, that in spite of COVID-19 case numbers having fallen from the early September peak, they have levelled off at a higher level than before and, entering the winter period, the situation “remains precarious and we need to redouble our efforts to adhere to the protective measures”.
The measures include restricting public access to the courts and closing the public counters.
SCTS said the continuation would allow it “to continue with the criminal court recovery programme and enable the return of a small number of in-person civil and tribunal hearings”.
From 15 November, revised guidance will enable substantive Inner House and Criminal Appeal Court business to be heard in-person by default. All other civil business in the Court of Session and Sheriff Court will continue to be conducted virtually, unless the court allows an in-person hearing on cause shown.
For criminal solemn business in the sheriff courts, the accused should attend the first diet.
SCTS said it would keep its guidance under regular review and make changes if necessary. A further review will take place in January 2022, taking account of the public health advice at that point.
Eric McQueen, chief executive of SCTS commented: “Although case levels have reduced from their peak in early September they remain at a high level. The virus has not gone away and we need to continue to do all we can to keep ourselves, our colleagues and all who use our buildings safe.”