In line with the Government advice, the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service is trying to reduce the amount of contact between individuals. As a result, the number of cases calling in the normal fashion has been drastically reduced. Therefore, if you are an accused person, a witness, or have recently been charged by the Police with a criminal offence, it is highly likely that these changes apply to your circumstances.
Unfortunately, the criteria that determine whether or not a case will call are not straight forward. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that, although the following will provide a basic overview of how the changes will work, it is important to obtain advice that is tailored specifically to your case. If you have any doubts about your case, Graham Walker Solicitors are available to help.
The factors that will determine whether or not your case is likely to call are as follows:
All jury trials have been suspended until further notice. Further information on how jury trials will be handled during the course of the pandemic can be found on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website .
The vast majority of summary trials will be adjourned administratively. However, there is a possibility that certain summary trials will go ahead despite the restrictions. This is likely to be the case where there is a small number of witnesses and their avilability is known. Whether or not the accused is in custody will also have an effect. Due to the uncertainty surrounding summary trials, it is suggested that you contact a solicitor in order to determine whether or not you require to attend court.
Broadly speaking, procedural hearings will call where the accused is remanded in custody in respect of that case. If the accused is serving a custodial sentence or is remanded in respect of another case, but is on bail for the case in question, then it will be administratively adjourned to a later date. Procedural hearings include intermediate diets, first diets, preliminary hearings, incidental applications, evidential hearings, etc.
If you have been served with a citation requiring you to attend court to answer a summary complaint, then your case will be administratively adjourned until a later date. If you have not instructed a solicitor to act on your behalf, then it is likely that the court will write to you advising you when you are required to attend court. If you have not instructed a solicitor to act on your behalf, it would be beneficial to do so; they will be better equipped to obtain this information and keep you informed as to what you are required to do. If you are in this situation, don’t hesitate to contact our office if you require assistance.
If you have been released on a bail undertaking, you will be required to attend court at the specified date and time. This will not be affected by the legislative changes in response to the pandemic. Of note, however, is that bail undertaking hearings are often cancelled at the last minute. If you instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf, they will be able to determine this before the case is due to call, which could avoid you having to attend court unnecessarily. If this applies to you, we can act on your behalf.
If you have been convicted and are awaiting sentencing, then whether or not your case will call depends on whether or not you are on bail. If you are on bail in respect of the case for which you are due to be sentenced, then your case will likely be administratively adjourned until a later date. Conversely, if you are in custody, then it will likely call as scheduled. This is also the case with appeal hearings.
Hearings in the drug and alcohol courts will be adjourned administratively.
There are many reasons why a delay of some kind could effect the outcome of a criminal case. It could be that statutory time limits have not been complied with; that to prosecute a person after a significant period of time may be considered oppresive in the circumstances; or it could be that taking an unacceptably long time to conduct proceedings against someone represents a contravention of that person’s human rights. However, only the former, namely statutory time limits, have been addressed in the emergency legislation.
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 deals with statutory time limits in a number of ways, which means that you will require to obtain legal advice from a solicitor tailored to the particulars of your case if you are uncertain. But, generally, the approach taken either involves increasing the time that the Procurator Fiscal has to initiate proceedings either by a fixed period or by simply discounting the suspension period (which is essentially the lockdown period). Although this means that there will not be noticable consequences for prosecutions that are already ongoing, it may become a pertinent concern for cases that are initiated after the lockdown in respect of offences that took place on or around the date when the suspension period began.
Please note that this is general guidance. If any of the above scenarios apply to you, we would still recommend that you contact a solicitor and seek advice tailored to your case. This is because the particular circustances of your case may mean that it will call despite similar cases being adjourned. If you do not yet have a solicitor, we can act on your behalf and ensure that you are provided with accurate advice relevant to your particular circumstances.