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‘Necessary evil’ or ‘grossly inconvenient’? Lawyers react as trials halted for climate change conference

Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Solicitors have reacted to the news that trials are to be halted later this year to allow police to focus on the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow.

Criminal trials across the north and north-east are set to grind to a halt again due to cops being drafted in to police the Cop26 global climate change summit in November.

No sheriff court trials will take place at all for a period in November because of the impact of the event.

With some 10,000 police officers from all across the UK required each day during the gathering, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) said the “high level of deployment” meant that officers would be unable to attend trials as witnesses.

No trials will be held at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

No summary level or Justice of the Peace level trials will run in Scotland for the three week period between October 25 and November 12.

And no sheriff and jury level trials will run in the country for a two week period between November 1 and 12.

‘It’s just going to have to be that way’

Aberdeen solicitors have given a mixed reaction to the news.

Tony Burgess, criminal defence lawyer for the Just Defence Law Practice, said: “It’s a necessary evil.

“It’s not something I would want to see, and nobody wants any further delays.

“But with something as significant as that, that requires the policing that it needs, and there’s going to be casualties. If the courts are going to be one of those casualties then it’s just going to have to be that way, as unsatisfactory as that is.”

Move will ‘lead to an even greater backlog’

Meanwhile Gregor Kelly, a partner with Lefevre Litigation, said the move would be “grossly inconvenient”.

He said: “It’s highly regrettable that trials are to be suspended for the duration of the conference.

“These trials have been diarised for a considerable amount of time, having been delayed due to the pandemic.

“For accused and witnesses alike this is is grossly inconvenient and will simply lead to an even greater backlog.”

In Aberdeen, jury trials only resumed again in February, following an extended hiatus while the SCTS scrambled to adapt to Covid-enforced regulations and guidelines including social distancing.

Remote jury centres have been set up at the Vue cinema on Shiprow, to allow jurors to space out in the vast rooms and follow proceedings through live video links, with footage being streamed both ways.

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