Aberdeen lawyers have welcomed plans for the safe resumption of sheriff and jury trials in the new year.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS) is looking to secure deals with venues in the north-east to become remote jury centres so hearings can take place.
Court chiefs have confirmed trials at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Livingstone sheriff courts will take place in front of juries based in three Odeon cinemas.
It is hoped the same can be done in the Grampian region, with the SCTS hoping to sign contracts with venues in time to make it a reality for the start of 2021.
The SCTS said not all venues being investigated for sheriff court jury centres are cinemas and not all cinemas being considered are Odeon venues.
Courts across the country all but ground to a halt in March when the Covid-19 pandemic first took hold in the UK and sheriff and jury trials have still not resumed.
Defence solicitor Liam Mcallister, a partner at Lefevre Litigation in Aberdeen, said it is the best way to tackle delays in the criminal justice system.
He said: “The sooner you get this up and running the better. The court service deserves great credit for coming up with a solution in these unprecedented times.
“I think all parties need to do what they can to make this work. People will be keen to clear the backlog as nobody wants any more delays.
“It will only work if we all come to join together for this so fingers crossed it does.
“It is important that from the perspective of witnesses, accused and everyone else we do things in a safe way. It is in nobody’s interests to delay any longer.
“There will be problems but we have to remember the system we have isn’t perfect.
“There is a pragmatic approach to this in Aberdeen.”
Defence solicitor Mike Monro, a partner at Mackie & Dewar, said he has “no concerns” over using cinemas or other venues to make sure the system can cope.
He said: “The jury trials are for the most serious offences but we have a backlog of cases.
“If it is to be juries in cinemas and as long as we know justice is being done then it is no concern to me as long the proper steps have been taken.”
Tim Barraclough, director of the Judicial Office for Scotland, said it wants to build on the resumption of the High Court trials.
He said: “The working group brings together those from across the justice sector with the expertise and insight required to plan the roll-out of the remote jury approach to the sheriff courts.
“Building on what we have learnt from the High Court, this group is working together to develop a model that will allow trials to proceed fairly, effectively and safely across Scotland. Progress so far has been very encouraging.”