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Inverness to test new virtual sheriff court

By Andrew Dixon

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Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle.
Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle.

An Inverness Sheriff Court commercial case provides the first opportunity to test the use of virtual court hearings in Scotland’s sheriff courts.

Tuesday’s hearing will enable parties in the case to appear before Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle in a virtual courtroom.

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.

This will be the first virtual sheriff court, hearing arguments by the parties hosted on the courts’ new video platform.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said: "Coronavirus has had an enormous impact on court business, with urgent and essential business being prioritised within the government’s current lockdown arrangements.

"With these restrictions in place, we have been working hard with sheriffs principal and the Law Society of Scotland to extend the services we can offer, as well as planning on how we safely move into the next phase as soon as the lockdown restrictions ease.

"With social distancing likely to remain in place for some time, we need to make the best use of technology to enable cases to proceed as safely and as quickly as possible."

Virtual courts were successfully introduced in the Court of Session Inner House at the end of April and will shortly be extended to the Outer House, replacing the current telephone hearings.

Sheriff Principal Pyle said: “In these unprecedented times, it is remarkable how quickly the courts, judiciary and legal profession have grasped the nettle of technology to find solutions.

"There is still a long way to go, but the hearing this week is another step along a road which, over the coming months should revolutionise the way in which sheriff court civil proceedings are conducted.”

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