keen to modernise the judiciary, and Barraclough credits both him and Lady Dorrian as enthu- siastic supporters of tech. Aside from the remote jury

Jurors watch

proceedings from an Odeon cinema complex. On the screen, they see a composite view of the courtroom

centres, much of civil courts’ work – as well as appeal hear- ings, proceedings based on written submissions or legal arguments – had already been moved onto the Webex platform. Another area that needs further development is the ability of police stations to host custody hearings remotely instead of transporting the accused to court, which could reduce the burden on the justice system. Te courts system will also

need to continue to evolve its own practices digitally, and consider how to serve vulner- able people, whether those who find it hard to deal with the justice system or those who have problems with travel, for whom technology could offer a better solution.

Barraclough says: “Those issues are already being looked at and this has helped us to develop the trust in the technology to be able to do that, and the willingness to consider the idea. “But we are going to have to,

We took a lot of advice from folk, particularly victims’ representa- tives, who said they didn’t want people thinking they were part of an entertainment show when giving evidence. So we put a lot of work into making sure that every- body strongly felt that they were turning up for a court proceeding rather than at an entertainment venue.”

The tech itself has held up well and there is a high level of assur- ance in place from the supplier, says Barraclough. Both the Odeon complexes in Fort Kinnaird – serving Edinburgh – and Brae- head, for Glasgow, were chosen largely because of the robustness of their IT infrastructure and good connectivity, something that became quickly apparent when the working group conducted its market scoping exercise for suit- able venues over summer.

Once the agreement was in

place, a lot of bespoke work had to be carried out, including tweaking camera angles – giving all participants a good view – and lawyers had to curtail any ten- dencies to roam during speeches. Tere is a complete backup system should the main tech fail, and time glitches, to be expected of audio-visual conferencing suites, have so far been minor. High courts are now running

back at full capacity. According to the latest figures from SCTS, high court evidence-led trials are actually 17 per cent higher than the average monthly pre-Covid level, with the normal capacity for 16 trials per day successfully restored. Remote jury centres are be-

ing extended across Scotland to restart sheriff court jury trials, with Lothian and Borders and Glasgow and Strathkelvin having

commenced at the beginning of December. Te other sheriffdoms will follow in the early part of 2021. While these are encouraging signs in getting back to normal operating levels, scheduled cases are twice the normal level and the average waiting period for trials has doubled to 12 months in the high court, 15 months in sheriff solemn and six months in sheriff summary hearings. Like all parts of the public

sector, it will require investment from government on top of the £12m it has committed to remote jury centres in order to continue to resource a legal profession seri- ously stretched by the pandemic. Barraclough is keen to empha-

sise, though, the progress that has been made, and which he thinks will be hard to reverse in many instances. Lord Carloway, the Lord President – Scotland’s most senior judge – has also long been

at some point, think out of all of the things that have been intro- duced what do we want to hold on to? And there will definitely be things we want to hold on to and develop further.” He adds: “Te key to the suc-

cess of this was getting all the different players and represen- tatives together to agree on a way forward and to get their input. Tat was really important and we have really valued the contributions from the different interested parties. “What this pandemic has done

has given a huge amount of en- ergy to a great deal of innovation that would probably have taken an awful lot longer if we were just trying to do it in the normal way. It has generated a huge amount of interest and excite- ment in coming up with these solutions and we hope to capture that energy and enthusiasm, and continue with the pace of change, into the future.”l

FUTURESCOT | WINTER 2020/21 | 47

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