JURY trials are to restart in Scotland from July after being suspended because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Scotland’s second most senior judge, the Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, said the High Court trials in Glasgow and Edinburgh would involve the physical distancing of jurors.

In Glasgow, jurors will sit in the public gallery instead of the jury box, while in Edinburgh they will use view the trial in a separate room over a video-link.

Scottish Secretary Humza Yousaf welcomed the move, which is the first step in clearing an anticipated backlog of at least 2000 trials.

Lady Dorrian leads thea working group on restarting solemn trials, the most serious cases involving a jury before a judge or sheriff.

The group had been looking at whether to cut the size of the jury in order to create safe spaces between its members - in the World War II it was reduced from 15 to seven.

However the initial plan involves continuing with 15-member juries.

The Scottish Court Service has said the controversial idea of judges sitting without juries remains an extreme option in order to clear the backlog.

Lady Dorrian said: “The Courts have been working extremely hard to deliver justice in the current circumstances. 

“The challenges in conducting 15-person jury trials in a physically distanced environment cannot be underestimated. 

“A pool of jurors must be cited, assembled and balloted in a way which respects social distancing guidelines. 

“The Court facilities must be configured to ensure the safety of all those involved in the trial, including access for the public and for the media, whilst at the same time ensuring effective participation of all the main participants.

“However, thanks to the constructive input of all those on the Working Group, we have identified the steps needed for the first trials to take place in Edinburgh and Glasgow in July.”

She said there remained “plenty of work to do” before the plans could be realised, however.

She said: “Specific plans will be developed for different approaches in each location. 

“It is anticipated that we will use a 3-court solution in the High Court in Glasgow, with the jury using the public gallery in the trial courtroom. 

“In Edinburgh, we hope to use a 2-court solution, allowing the jury to view the trial remotely from a separate courtroom. 

“Nothing will take place until we have finalised the planning and can provide the assurance that it will be safe for all of those participating in the trial and that proceedings may be recommenced without significant risk to the administration of justice.”

Mr Yousaf said he was delighted at the “swift progress” and “innovative thinking”.

He said: “I am very conscious that behind each delayed jury trial are victims, witnesses and accused, who are all anxious to have their day in court and move on with their lives. 

“This announcement by the Lord Justice Clerk brings us an important step closer to enabling this to happen in a manner which safeguards both the interests of justice and of public health.”