Scotland: The Hate Crime Bill is passed by Parliament
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The damning data from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) reveals the number of cases concluded in the last quarter of 2021 between March and May was 16,269. This is more than 7,000 below a pre-pandemic quarterly average of 23,475.
Meanwhile, the number of High Court indictments also fell from 191 in the previous quarter to 173 while 43,341 scheduled trials are still outstanding in the Scottish justice system.
The figures mean victims of crime face having to wait many years to get justice and last night Holyrood opposition parties warned the backlog could get worse.
Jamie Greene MSP, Scottish Conservative Justice spokesperson claimed at the current pace, some trials could take “two to three years” to come to court.
He added: “The SNP are presiding over ever-growing delays in our justice system and this is only going to create more chaos in our courts.
“As restrictions have eased, SNP Ministers have been too slow in ensuring that the backlog in our courts is being dealt with.
“Tens of thousands of trials continuing to be delayed is completely unsustainable.
“Fewer victims are not getting justice for the crimes committed against them and far too many prisoners are on remand in custody awaiting their fate.
“The SNP are simply not doing enough to speed up this process.”
Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Pauline McNeill branded the figures as “incredibly concerning” and required “urgent attention from the SNP”.
She added: “These lengthy waits are not fair for anyone involved, whether it’s the victims waiting years for justice or the people being held on remand indefinitely.
“The SNP must work with the courts to deliver a real plan to help them catch up, so we can put a stop to this injustice.”
Liam McArthur MSP, Scottish Lib Dems justice representative, said: “When justice is delayed, memories fade and people begin to lose faith in the courts system.”
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Mr McArthur urged new Scottish Justice Secretary Keith Brown to set out how he will clear the caseload piling up in the court’s system.
It comes after Eric McQueen, head of the SCTS told MSPs the backlog could take ten years to clear in June.
In response, an SCTS spokesperson, said: “The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has been proactive in implementing solutions to maintain essential court business whilst ensuring people remain safe.
“Scotland was one of the first jurisdictions to restart trials in the most serious cases, utilising remote jury centres.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “As public health restrictions are further eased and as Scotland continues to open up, the justice system is responding and looking at creative approaches to mitigate the significant challenges presented by Covid.
“We have committed to investing £50million this year to the Justice Recover, Renew, and Transform programme to drive further reform and help increase the throughput of court cases, which is the single biggest way to reduce remand numbers.
“We saw tangible evidence of that work this week, with Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service progressing with an additional 16 court capacity, which forms a significant part of our Recovery programme, made possible by continued collaboration across the whole justice system.”
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