Courtroom Drama: Scottish Cinemas Help Tackle Case Backlog

A view of the Edinburgh Fringe shop and ticket office on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on April 1, 2020. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

EDINBURGH (AFP) — Two Scottish cinemas will host jurors later this month as part of plans to tackle a backlog in criminal cases caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Jurors will sit remotely at trials in Edinburgh and Glasgow from two Odeon complexes on September 28 and October 12, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) said Wednesday.

It was a “first in the United Kingdom,” SCTS said, noting interest had been attracted from elsewhere in the country and beyond.

Ronnie Renucci, the president of the Scottish Criminal Bar Association, called the initiative “an innovative and unique solution” to address delays.

David Harvie, head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service which brings prosecutions in Scotland, said the move would allow trials to come back up to “pre-pandemic levels.”

The coronavirus outbreak severely disrupted jury trials across Britain, forcing legal officials to consider solutions to deal with delays and prevent cases building up further.

In England and Wales, which has a separate legal system from Scotland, 10 emergency “Nightingale Courts” were set up to add capacity for criminal and civil cases.

One was in the 13th century Knights’ Chamber at Peterborough Cathedral, in eastern England.

The SCTS said the cinemas have high levels of digital connectivity, “extremely” secure IT infrastructure and offer sound-proofed accommodation vital for jury deliberations.

Courtrooms will be fitted with the cameras and technology needed to broadcast the trials to cinema screens and to receive the video wall of jurors into the courtroom.

Scottish criminal trials have juries of 15, three more than in England and Wales.

They will sit physically distanced in the raked seats and be shown images of the judge, accused, prosecutors, defense lawyers and witnesses.

Deliberations will take place in the same cinema room with physically distanced tables and chairs linked by microphones.

© Agence France-Presse

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