Juries will shortly return in person to Scottish courts, as Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service begins to decommission the majority of its remote jury centres.

Juries have been accommodated at cinema venues since 2020, as a means of keeping solemn trials operating during COVID-19 restrictions. As these have eased and rates of infection have reduced, decommissioning will be phased over the summer months with jurors returning to court buildings between July and September 2022. During that period some jurors will continue to serve at remote jury centres and some at court buildings.

Remote centres have been operating in Aberdeen, Ayr, Dundee, Dunfermline, East Kilbride Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. The first centres to be decommissioned will be in Aberdeen and Inverness, with the first jury trial with jurors back in the courtroom likely to be around 5 July.

Over the last two years the balloting of jurors has been done in advance without the jurors being present. This will continue once jurors are back in the courtrooms, so only the 15 jurors balloted to participate plus a small number of substitutes will attend for the trial.

The first citations to attend for jury service at court buildings will be issued shortly. As the return to courts will be carried out in stages, there will be different information available for jurors depending on whether they are due to attend a trial in a court building or at a remote jury centre. SCTS guidance has been updated to reflect this.

SCTS added that as part of its criminal court recovery programme, two courtrooms in Parliament House which were not originally designed to accommodate juries will continue to be linked to remote jury centres, to enable planned levels of trials to continue to run. Further use of remote centres may yet form part of its long term contingency planning options.

SCTS has also published an externally commissioned evaluation, which indicates generally good levels of satisfaction with the arrangements both among jurors and legal professionals, though response rates from lawyers were "lower than desired" and defence lawyers showed the lowest levels of satisfaction at 56%.

David Fraser, SCTS Executive Director Court Operations commented: "Without this innovation, jury trials would not have been possible during the pandemic and backlogs would have far exceeded where they are now.

"The return of jurors to serve in court buildings is another important step in our recovery programme and, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, we rely on, and greatly appreciate, everyone’s ongoing co-operation to enable us to continue to support justice.

"As always the safety of all court users remains our priority and we will keep our approach under regular review in line with public health guidance."