Legal experts will consider whether trials could take place with smaller juries to enable them to restart while following social distancing measures when lockdown eases.

All new jury trials in Scotland are currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lord Carloway, the Lord Justice General, has now established a short-term working group to consider the practicalities of restarting trials by jury as and when public health guidelines permit such a move.

Experts said it is clear that, if there is still a requirement for some form of social distancing whenever lockdown restrictions ease, it will not be possible to reinstate 15-member jury trials just as they were.

The Working Group on Restarting Solemn Trials will examine how the physical and other practical constraints on jury trials might be overcome, with alternative uses of space in the court setting and use of technology to be considered.

It will also look at how far a smaller jury size will make it easier to meet social distancing requirements.

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The group will consider the legislative changes needed to facilitate the necessary adjustments to trial practice and procedure, and will assess the potential effect on the rate at which trials may be processed.

Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, who will lead the group, said: “The courts have been working extremely hard to deliver justice in the current challenging circumstances.

“The use of remote technology, for example, is progressing to cover as many types of case as is technically possible across a wide range of criminal and civil business.

“This working group recognises the importance to the accused, to witnesses and to their families of continuing that progress to consider serious criminal cases.”

She added: “The particular challenges of conducting a jury trial, while also following public health guidelines to protect those engaged in the hearing, is a difficult balance to meet."

The group said its initial focus will be on trials in the High Court of Justiciary, but that there will clearly be lessons to be applied to solemn trials in the Sheriff Court.