New initiative improves court safety and efficiency
A cross-justice initiative in South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway (SSDG) is helping to improve court safety and efficiency.
The initiative sees criminal justice and good behaviour reports provided securely by the local authority social work departments and the Crown, 48 hours in advance of cases calling.
This enables certain hearings to be dealt with administratively by a sheriff, saving the prosecution, defence and accused from having to attend court unnecessarily.
Previously, in most cases, these reports were not available until the morning of a hearing.
This meant that solicitors were often required to discuss the reports with their clients at, or outside, the court building.
Now however, the earlier delivery allows these reports to be sent to solicitors, via a secure email address, enabling instructions from clients to be taken before arrival at court.
Advanced reports also enable deferred sentences to be dealt with more efficiently and conveniently.
Where an offender has been of good behaviour or there is a positive report, the Sheriff can consider the matter in chambers in advance of the diet and admonish or fix a further diet/review administratively without the need for the accused, prosecution or defence to attend.
If a report is not available and the Sheriff is satisfied of the reasons, again the hearing can be continued administratively.
Since the initiative commenced on January 20 , more than 200 cases have so far been dealt with administratively.
SSDG Sheriff Principal Aisha Anwar said: “The courts are working hard to keep footfall within our buildings to a minimum to ensure the safety of all participants during the ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
“This initiative is another great example of collaboration across the justice sector agencies.
"The arrangements are working well to reduce the numbers attending court and to improve the efficiency of how our business is conducted.
“I would like to thank all those across the justice system, particularly the local authorities, who have w orked together to make this happen.”