Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Scottish Government drops controversial trial without jury measures from emergency legislation

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations Mike Russell
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations Mike Russell

Controversial plans to temporarily scrap trial by jury have been dropped from the Scottish Government’s emergency coronavirus legislation.

MSPs were set to debate plans for jury-less trials as part of a wide set of measures to support the justice system in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and tackle a growing backlog in Scottish courts.

The measures, which would allow judges and sheriffs to determine the outcome of major cases, were met with strong opposition from politicians and the legal profession before being scrapped just 24 hours after first being proposed.

Constitution secretary Mike Russell told MSPs the Scottish Government would remove the section of the bill dealing with jury trials “to allow an intensive and wide-ranging discussion by all interested parties, including victims, whose voice has not yet been fully heard, about the right way to ensure that justice continues to be done in Scotland”.

Mr Russell said the legislation is “solely designed to help our country pull through” but admitted he too finds some of the measures very difficult.

He confirmed there remains an “open invitation” for discussion and said opposition proposals to hear cases in cinemas and theatres “while slightly Kafkaesque, is something we can look at very seriously”.

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said new stand-alone legislation on jury trials will be put forward on April 21, at the next scheduled sitting at Holyrood, following consultation with the legal community and victims’ organisations.

He warned a backlog of cases is already building up in the court system as a result of the coronavirus outbreak but insisted ministers will work in a “spirit of compromise and a spirit of consensus”.

Mr Yousaf said: “The solution needs to be in place this month so I am making a firm commitment to this chamber and wider Scotland that we will table emergency legislation for debate here on the next due sitting day, which is April 21.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton described the Government’s “sharp u-turn” on its jury trial plans as important.

“People in Scotland have had jury trials for 800 years, through wars, disease and pestilence,” he said.

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

“When SNP ministers look at this again they need to remember that a shiver ran down people’s spines at the idea they wanted to go further than any government in the world to end our system of justice.

“A pillar of our justice system must not be pushed to one side by the unilateral action of a minority government.

“People’s lives depend on the outcome of these trials and Scots have been able to present their evidence to a jury for almost 800 years. There are ways we can keep jurors safe and keep our justice system intact.”

The Government’s announcement was welcomed by Law Society president John Mulholland, who said he was “reassured” ministers had listened to the concerns of members.

He added: “We look forward to engaging positively with the Scottish Government and partners as they investigate practical ways to ensure that justice can continue to be carried out effectively during the outbreak.”

 

We will keep you updated on all of the key developments as the day progresses

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from The Courier Scottish politics team

More from The Courier