Black Chambers members play important role as trials resume

Black Chambers were delighted to hear the announcement on Friday that jury trials will be restarting in the Sheriff Court. This represents further significant progress in addressing the backlog of criminal cases created by the pausing of business at the outset of the pandemic, and follows the resumption of High Court trials which took another step forward last week with a full set of courts open in the central belt. The 18 trial courts across the Sheriff Court circuit will run with remote jury centres, and will also allow for High Courts to operate in Aberdeen and Inverness. A cross-justice group led by Sheriff Principal Turnbull will examine the challenges specific to Sheriff Court jury trials with Tony Lenehan of Black Chambers representing the Faculty.

The various parties within the justice system who have engaged in the process deserve great credit for their efforts in finding a solution to a unique, complicated problem, and the input of the SCBA (led by recently installed Vice-Dean of Faculty, Ronnie Renucci QC, as SCBA President; and Tony Lenehan, who holds the position of Vice-President) was substantial. Counsel across the Criminal Bar united to express their commitment to seeing trials running again without damaging the integrity of the long-held principle of the jury system.

Ian Duguid QC, Black Chambers stable director, commented: “This is a timely boost particularly for members of the junior bar who are predominantly instructed in solemn business in the Sheriff Court and whose livelihoods have been so affected by the consequences of the pandemic. The interests of justice will best be served by the commitments of all parties to a prompt and successful resumption of business. The ingenuity in finding solutions has been commendable”.

Practice Manager Lee-Anne Black added: “The time and effort which Ronnie and Tony have expended behind the scenes to find a workable model while preserving the accused’s right to a trial by jury cannot be overstated. Our members are eager to get back in to court and it is very much business as usual for the clerking team, who are on hand to assist Counsel and agents as required.”