Jury trials to return in spring

Jury trials are set to return to the isles in the spring of this year, according to the cabinet secretary for justice.

Due to staffing issues, prisoner escort provider GeoAmey had been unable to fulfil its contractual obligations to locations such as Lerwick, Kirkwall, and Stornoway.

However, in a response to a parliamentary question today (Wednesday), the cabinet secretary for justice Angela Constance confirmed there had been “an improvement” in the GeoAmey contract.

Ms Constance said: “Following the pausing of the post pandemic reintroduction of the solemn jury trials in the sheriff courts at Lerwick, Kirkwall, Portree, Stornoway, Lochmaddy and Wick, assurances have been given by GeoAmey that they will be able to properly resource the courts from spring 2024.”

After her question was answered by the cabinet secretary, Ariane Burgess MSP said it was unfair for witnesses and to be out of pocket for travel to the mainland, where trials were being held.

“While defendants’ costs are covered, that is not always the case for witnesses and, even where direct costs are reclaimed, that doesn’t address the time and the distance from support networks for those giving evidence,” Ms Burgess said.

Last year, Sheriff Ian Cruickshank had expressed strongly that he was powerless to assign jury trials.

The sheriff’s comments were supported by MP Alistair Carmichael, a former solicitor himself, who said the courts were “now being run for the convenience of everyone apart from the local people who depend upon them”.


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