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History made in Inverness as court hosts first 'virtual' hearing


By Andrew Dixon

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A civil case involving a £110,000 debt by a former Inverness company was dealt with via video link for the first time.

Presiding over the legal debate was Sheriff Principal for Grampian, Highland and Islands, Derek Pyle, who afterwards deemed it “successful” despite a 15-minute late start, and some minor sound and vision glitches.

The hearing was available for the public to view, with Sheriff Principal Pyle giving an introduction, paying tribute to the Scottish Courts administration for being able to organise it due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “This is the future. But this is not Judge Judy or that English chap who did Strictly [Judge Rinder].”

Neither he, solicitor advocate Craig Watt for the pursuers, Irish company Promontaria nor Stephen Bell, counsel for the defender Karen MacIver of Wardlaw Road, Kirkhill, wore wigs or gowns in the virtual courtroom.

Sheriff Principal Pyle said the legal issues surrounded a personal guarantee given by Mrs MacIver on behalf of the MacIver Group which had borrowed a substantial amount of money from the Clydesdale Bank in 2006.

The company went into administration and was then dissolved and struck off the Register of Companies in 2014. Mr Bell argued that the debt died with the company and that it was too late for a claim against his client, so the action should be dismissed.

Mr Watt said that the bank had assigned the debt to his client, there was documentation to prove it and the court should rule in his favour. Mr Bell disputed the redacted paperwork, claiming “it is not what it is purported to be”. He added that Promontaria had no entitlement to the debt as they were not in the original contract.

After nearly 80 minutes, the hearing ended and Sheriff Principal Pyle will give his ruling at a later date.

Video links have been used in sheriff courts since the start of the coronavirus outbreak to conduct custody proceedings, with the accused appearing from police cells.

But this was the first virtual sheriff court, hearing arguments by the parties hosted on the courts’ new video platform and was assigned as an Inverness Sheriff Court hearing.

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