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Aberdeen trial abandoned after audio problems with video link

Aberdeen Sheriff Court.
Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

An investigation has been launched after audio problems forced a jury trial to be abandoned at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

The issue came to light while a witness was giving evidence via a video link, with an echo in the courtroom making it difficult to hear the evidence clearly.

While the jury, who were following proceedings from the remote jury centre at the Vue cinema nearby, had no sound problems, the issue proved to be too big of an obstacle for the trial to continue.

As a result, the matter had to be deserted on the second day, with a new trial hoped to be held in June.

The trial had been expected to run for up to five days.

The case had been for Dale Harris, 55, of Buchan Road, Fraserburgh, who faced two charges of assault to injury and one under the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937.

He denies the charges against him.

‘The issue with the audio is currently being investigated’

Following the desertion, a Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) spokesman confirmed the issue was being investigated.

He said: “We are aware there was an issue with the audio in the court room while a witness was giving evidence via a remote link.

“This did not impact the audio in the remote jury centre.

“After consideration, the sheriff deserted the matter pro loco et tempore.

“The issue with the audio is currently being investigated and will be tested to ensure full functionality ahead of any future hearings.

“We apologised for the inconvenience this has caused.”

Jury trials in Aberdeen only started running again last month, following a break of almost a year due to Covid-19 and associated restrictions.

Courts across the country all but ground to a halt when the pandemic first took hold, but have since adapted with extensive measures introduced to allow social distancing and additional hygiene protocols.

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A Vue cinema screen which has been converted into a remote jury centre.

A deal was struck with the Vue cinema on Shiprow, a stone’s throw from the court buildings in Aberdeen city centre, to allow remote jury centres to be set up at the venue, taking advantage of the spacious rooms and high-tech equipment.

Jurors view proceedings on the big screen, while in court rooms, four large TVs display live images of the jury members so everyone can see each other.

Microphones have also been installed in courtrooms to ensure sound is picked up and played through the high-tech cinema audio system.

Last year, a trial had to be abandoned on the third day, after staff discovered recording equipment had not been functioning properly.

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