Technology can provide solution to court witness delays

Glasgow Sheriff Court (Michael McGurk)
Glasgow Sheriff Court (Michael McGurk)

WITNESSES could be sent text message alerts about delayed or cancelled trials in a bid to end the “stress and anxiety” placed on those giving evidence in court.

Last week The Sunday Post revealed thousands of witnesses are being called to trials in Scotland’s courts every year which have no chance of going ahead – wasting £10 million of public money.

READ MORE Sunday Post Investigates: Scotland’s £10 million court ‘charade’

Experts have warned delays in the courts are spiralling out of control and now victims’ charities want new technology to help ease the burden.

Victim Support Scotland has told a Holyrood probe into the justice system many victims and witnesses experience stress, anxiety and lose out financially.

Its submission to the justice committee says: “This stress, anxiety and inconvenience caused to victims and witnesses, who will have mentally prepared themselves to give evidence, is avoidable.

“We believe that consideration should be given to the use of technology to cite and countermand witnesses.”

The Scottish Borders Rape Crisis Centre has echoed this view.

It believes technology could be used more, particularly in terms of videoing police statements and playing those to court, so victims do not need to attend.

Independent estimates reveal almost half of summary cases did not proceed as planned in Scotland’s sheriff courts last year and there’s been a 65% increase in the number of cases adjourned due to “lack of court time” over the last five years.

An Audit Scotland probe found witnesses claim they are being left to hang around for days at a time with limited access to food or water.

The Sheriffs’ Association revealed some courts are experiencing “significant” delays and called for increased funding.

In his submission to the inquiry on the Crown Office, Ayrshire GP Dr Robbie Cummings, who is also a forensic medical examiner, said on one occasion he had to cancel the appointments of 40 patients only to find he was not needed in court.

He said: “When we are short staffed, I cannot leave the surgery without causing so many problems that the risk to the health of my patients overrides any other consideration and I would have to accept the consequences of failing to appear.”

The Scottish Court and Tribunal Service told the inquiry it was working to tackle the problem and was transforming into a modern service.


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