Surgeries help cut court backlog in south of Scotland

A judge-led initiative in courts across the south of Scotland is proving successful in reducing the backlog of summary court cases caused by the Covid-19.

Monday, 19th October 2020, 11:04 am
Sheriff Principal Aisha Anwar

Many sheriff court cases scheduled for trial resolve by an agreed guilty plea between the prosecutor and the defence agent.

However this often takes place on the day that the trial is due to start, which means witnesses attend unnecessarily and a slot in the court programme is used.

Sheriff Principal Aisha Anwar has now facilitated weekly ‘court surgeries’ which enable the defence and prosecution to resolve cases at an earlier stage.

Initially piloted at Hamilton Sheriff Court, the surgeries have now been set up in Ayr, Airdrie, Dumfries, Lanark, and Stranraer.

The initiative has proven successful with almost 90 per cent of cases discussed resolving early, freeing up space in the court programme for significantly more cases to proceed to trial.

Approximately 300 cases have resolved in 17 surgeries across the area.

Sheriff Principal Anwar said: “This excellent collaborative effort across the justice sector is making significant inroads into the backlog of trials caused by the pandemic and will increase court capacity in South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway.

“Not only are the surgeries increasing the efficiency of the courts, but they are also preventing witnesses and complainers from attending unnecessarily. It is a positive outcome for all involved.”