Coronavirus testing of people in courts and smaller juries are among the options being considered by the Scottish Government to continue criminal trials during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Emergency legislation at Holyrood initially had a provision that would mean the most serious cases in Scotland could be held without a jury.
Backlash from oppositions MSPs and the legal profession led the Scottish Government to withdraw those plans, with ministers saying further legislation would be brought forward on the matter.
Ahead of a planned meeting between “key stakeholders” and Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf on Wednesday, the Scottish Government has published possibilities for the legal system in a discussion paper.
These include reducing the number of people on juries and moving trials to larger, non-court venues.
While judge-only trials remain part of the options, the Scottish Government has indicated it is not one of its preferred options.
Mr Yousaf said: “We and our partner agencies are committed to continuing fair and effective justice, and moves have already been made to enhance digital capability across the justice system while scaling back activity where appropriate.
“However, the suspension of jury trials during the current lockdown period, in order to comply with social distancing guidance, will result in a significant backlog of criminal trials, which clearly negatively impacts victims, witnesses and accused people, as well as potentially public faith in their justice system.”
He added: “Following intensive work by Government, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Crown Office, our discussion paper details a range of potential temporary options and while changing the trial by jury system is still included it is not our favoured option.
“Each has clear challenges and I will consider them in detail, while having talks with key justice partners, including representatives of the legal profession, victims organisations, political parties and human rights experts this week.”
Other options to be considered include social distancing within courts, jurors accessing the court via video link and testing of jurors and those in courts for the virus.
The publication also shows adjustments to sentencing powers in sheriff courts and “measures to enable faster progression of jury trials to address backlog following easing of public health restrictions” are being considered.
Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said his party will continue to resist plans to remove juries from the most serious cases.
He said: “The SNP got very considerable blowback on its plans to abolish jury trials as we cope with this pandemic.
“But many will look at these proposals and see that this widely-criticised idea is back on the table.
“If the SNP decides to press this option again, in the face of all the objection last time, we will oppose it all the way.”
The Justice Secretary said he will make a statement in Holyrood when MSPs return from Easter recess on Tuesday.