Covid-19 (Support for Court Services)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th February 2021.

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Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting court services during the Covid-19 pandemic. (S5O-05027)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

We have been supporting the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service in a number of different ways during the pandemic. We have progressed emergency legislation to allow business to operate virtually and remotely, and we have provided £15 million to strengthen court technology and establish the United Kingdom’s first remote jury centres, which enabled the safe resumption of jury trials.

Last week, I met the criminal justice board to discuss a range of our next steps. Next month, I will hold a round-table event with members of the Justice Committee and other stakeholders to discuss options to address the current caseload. They include, as I have already said to Claire Baker, maximising the opportunities that are presented by the additional £50 million for trials that was announced in the budget statement.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has announced further restrictions on court activity until the end of March, which is yet another blow to victims, who will now have to wait longer in their quest for justice. Why has the Scottish National Party Government not given courts, such as the one in Dumfries in my constituency, the appropriate resources to become Covid safe for business and allow more victims to gain justice?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

First and foremost, I recognise the impact that any suspension of courts can have on victims. However, the decision is not one for the Scottish Government to take—it is rightly taken independently by the Lord President. We have increased funding for victims organisations.

I know that Finlay Carson has a long-standing interest in the court in Dumfries. The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has confirmed that, when it comes to the plans for potentially increasing court capacity and using that £50 million, Dumfries will be part of the considerations.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

Has any research been done into victims and complainants becoming disillusioned with the justice system because of late postponements? Has the Scottish Government looked at whether they are refusing to interact with the justice system or looking for recourse in other ways? That would be a real issue for the justice system and it could undermine public confidence.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I meet representatives of victim support organisations regularly, and they express concern about any challenges and difficulties that victims can face if there are delays in trials coming to court.

I am happy to write to Rhoda Grant about the remote jury centre model. We and the SCTS are looking at evaluating that model and the impact that it can have on all those involved, including victims, the accused and witnesses. Rhoda Grant raises an important point and I assure her that I will continue my engagement with victim support organisations on the matter.