Return of jury trials welcome but access to justice for islanders can’t be seen as expendable – McArthur

10 Jan 2024
Kirkwall Sheriff Court

Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur has again welcomed the prospect of jury trials returning to island courts, but warned that local access to justice for islanders cannot be seen as “expendable” within the justice system.

Jury trials have been suspended across much of the highlands and islands since last summer due to the failures of GEOAmey, the company providing prisoner transport services in Scotland, to deliver on its responsibilities under its contract with the Scottish Courts Service. While changes have been made that will allow jury trials to resume in spring, Mr McArthur sought assurances from the Justice Secretary, Angela Constance that any revisions to the contract with GEOAmey would better protect the needs of island communities.

The exchange in parliament this afternoon during Justice Questions follows extensive correspondence between Mr McArthur and Ms Constance since last summer.

Commenting after Portfolio Questions, Mr McArthur said:

“It should never have come to this and has taken too long to resolve, but I welcome the prospect of jury trials returning to Kirkwall Sheriff Court and other courts across the region.

“While the Justice Secretary was able to point to positive indicators in relation to staffing and prison transport, the failures of GEOAmey cannot be allowed to undermine local access to justice for islanders like this in future.

“The Scottish Government must now take stock and ensure future contracts protect the interests of all those engaging with our justice system, wherever they might live.”