Thousands of serious crime trials 'backlogged’ in courts after Covid lockdown

Trials have been halted in Scotland's High courtsTrials have been halted in Scotland's High courts
Trials have been halted in Scotland's High courts
Scotland's courts have a backlog of more than 2,000 cases of the most serious crimes, including homicide and sexual offences, after months of Coronavirus lockdown.

There are currently 717 cases awaiting trial in the country's High Courts and 1584 sheriff and jury cases awaiting trial, Crown Office chiefs revealed today.

This compares with 390 High Court cases awaiting trial going into the crisis at the end of March and 460 cases in the sheriff and jury system.

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And after a fall in crime across Scotland during throughout lockdown in April, this returned to "normal" last month, MSPs heard today.

The coronanvirus lockdown has meant that no trials have been able to take place in Scotland, although plans have been unveiled to restart them in July.

And Lord Advocate James Wolffe, who heads up the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, today told Holyrood's justice committee that caseloads are mounting

"The backlog has been increasing during this period," the Lord Advocate said today.

"It also follows for such period as the court is unable to process cases at or about its normal capacity that backlog is going to continue to increase."

Among the High Court cases, 49 are homicides, 465 are serious sexual offence cases and 182 are major crime.

The Lord Advocate added: "The Crown is continuing to process its existing caseload, it's continuing to receive reports of crime and to deal with this.

"It's continuing to indict cases into the solemn courts and continuing to service summary complaints."

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There are also 238 High Court cases outstanding where at least one person is being held on remand, MSPs were told, with about 300 on remand in relation to Sheriff and jury cases.

Reported crime in Scotland saw a dip of more than 2,000 in April to 10,063 cases, compared with 12,540 the month before.

But Crown Agent David Harvie told MSPs today: "By May it was back up to 12,436.

“So there was a dip in April, but we're pretty much back up to normal levels throughout May."

This is likely to mean in an extra 300 High Court and 300 Sheriff and jury case from those three months, he added.

Less serious crime which is heard in the Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts stood at 17,900 at the end of the March, but since then an extra 21,000 cases have been served, although not all of these will go to trial.

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