In the wake of the news of a further strict lockdown, the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service was quick to assure the public and practitioners that it would be business as usual.
This is extremely welcome news to those working in or needing to use the courts.
When the first lockdown happened in March 2020, the sheriff courts (at least) effectively closed their doors. Nothing appeared to happen for several months while the service considered how it could adapt.
Lessons have been learned since then meaning the courts will be able to remain open for business this time around.
Amongst other things, the courts have made a huge leap forward in the way they administer day-to-day business, moving almost entirely away from a paper-based system. My view is that the civil courts are operating more efficiently now than they were before lockdown. Had it not been for the lockdown, these changes may have been many years away.
Business in the criminal courts does remain problematic due to the need to bring people physically into those courts. That said, they are better equipped to deal with those difficulties this time around and make better use of the availability technology.
we can confirm that courts and tribunals will continue to operate business as currently scheduled, as this is an essential service. The existing exemptions to restrictions, allowing court and tribunal users and staff to travel to, and work in, court and tribunal premises to maintain essential services, will continue to apply following the new restrictions announced today