Covid-19: What you need to know about court closures during the pandemic

23rd Jul 2020
Lisa Boyle

Covid-19: What you need to know about court closures during the pandemic

 

Personal injury lawyers across the country have had thousands of cases put into limbo as a result of the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service’s (SCTS) failures to put any “meaningful plan” in place to deal with court business during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Scott Whyte, Managing Director of Watermans Solicitors, has been left appalled at the “abysmal” response being given by the SCTS while a large number of trials remain suspended due to the covid-19 outbreak.

 

 

He said: “We are now months into lockdown and the SCTS still don’t seem to have any meaningful plan put in place to try and prevent what will end up a huge backlog of cases.

 

“Our firm now has a substantial backlog of hundreds of cases that are being put on hold and this has had a significant impact on our clients who are having their access to justice delayed.  In the majority of cases, these include losses which our clients have already incurred and now they face further delays in recovering these sums at a time when finances are tight for many people in the country.

 

“The response we have had from the SCTS in regards to the situation has been abysmal in that they have admitted the extent of the backlog of paperwork in the closed courts is unknown. 

 

“A recent update provided by the Civil Justice Committee also states that non-urgent work which forms the current backlog will not be prioritised by work type – staff will simply work their way through the backlog of everything that has built up.  I appreciate staff safety is a concern for them but that is also the case for law firms up and down the country and we have adapted to a new way of working.  Why have SCTS, who will have a greater IT budget than most law firms, do the same?

 

“All the focus seems to have been placed on keeping the criminal system moving and whilst that is also important, the civil justice system needs to be on an equal footing.

“Ultimately, the system is failing people at a time where it is needed most.”

 

Mr Whyte’s comments come as non-urgent disputes have continued to be heard south of the border thanks to greater use of video conferencing facilities and online sharing of case files, but advocates have warned the civil system in Scotland has stopped as the country battles the coronavirus outbreak.

 

He continued: “This is a real cause for concern and the fact that the English court system has been able to carry on at a much more normal level is a damning indictment of our court service in Scotland.”