Finlay Carson MSP

Galloway and West Dumfries

Jury trials are expected to restart in Dumfries

Jury trials are expected to restart in Dumfries instead of being transferred to Ayr Sheriff Court later this month.

Work is underway to link Dumfries Sheriff Court to the remote jury centre based in Ayr.

But there are no plans yet to expand the technical infrastructure to Stranraer Sheriff Court for sheriff and jury cases.

The news comes after Finlay Carson, MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, raised the matter with the Scottish justice secretary Humza Yousaf asking that additional funding be made available to allow the courts to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish Conservative MSP asked why the Scottish Government had not provided more funding to clear the backlog of court cases and speed up the delay for victims of crime to gain justice.

He later wrote to the justice secretary asking him to set out the plans and timescale for work to be undertaken in Dumfries, pressing also  the case for Stranraer Sheriff Court to be considered in order to save victims having to travel to Ayr, a round-trip of nearly 100 miles.

Yesterday Mr Carson welcomed an update from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service confirming that the first sitting in Dumfries via the remote link is now planned for 19 April.

He said: “I am delighted that the justice secretary listened to my argument to give courts, like Dumfries, appropriate resources to allow them to operate again.

“It is vital that we do everything possible to clear the huge backlog of court cases and ensure victims can gain justice quicker.

“While I am pleased Dumfries will now be linked up, I am still disappointed that Stranraer Sheriff Court has not been considered likewise and I will continue to press for this to happen as quickly as possible to avoid unnecessary travel to Ayr.”

In his response, Eric McQueen, chief executive of SCTS, said: “I am pleased to confirm that we are now in a position to link Dumfries Sheriff Court to the remote jury centre based in Ayr. This will avoid Dumfries jury cases being transferred to Ayr Sheriff Court.

“Work is underway to expand the technical infrastructure and prepare the court for jury trials. We are engaging with the Crown and defence agents to move quickly to put the court programme in place for jury trials to restart in Dumfries.”

He added the first sitting, linked to the remote jury centre, is scheduled to take place on April 19.

But the court boss revealed there are no current plans to expand the infrastructure to Stranraer Sheriff Court.

Mr McQueen said: “Under the leadership of the Lord Justice Clerk, we have worked with the judiciary, legal profession and 3rd sector to introduce these innovative remote jury centres within cinema complexes.

“This is an incredibly complex technical solution both to install and to service and operate on an ongoing basis and not one that can be replicated in every court in Scotland.

“Therefore we have had to take decisions on where to locate remote jury centres in each sheriffdom, linked to a smaller number of courts. “

He continued: “That being said, where the defence and the Crown agree, and the sheriff has determined it is appropriate, there are facilities for witnesses to give their evidence remotely from Stranraer Sheriff Court to avoid the need to travel to Dumfries.”