Saturday 2 March 2024
 4.9°C   E Gentle Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Court / Sheriff voices concern over future of jury trials in island courts

LERWICK’s sheriff has expressed fears over the future of jury trials in Shetland amid continued restrictions on island courts in Scotland.

It comes as an order, first imposed in July, continues to prohibit new jury trial business in the Scottish islands due to staffing challenges with prisoner escort provider GEOAmey.

Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on Wednesday that a jury trial set for Lerwick later this month had to be discharged because of a lack of suitable counsel of the accused.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank.

The case in question is against 41-year-old Stephen Tait, of Lytham, who faces six historical charges relating to lewd, indecent and libidinous practices against young people, which he denies.

Because the trial had to be discharged, it has been moved to the Scottish mainland – to Peterhead, in February.

With the order on courts in Stornoway, Lerwick, Kirkwall, Portree and Lochmaddy continuing, Sheriff Cruickshank said he had concern that the “erosion” in the ability to deliver justice locally “will be irreversible”.

He said it would be “shameful” if jury trial business was lost in the islands.

The Sheriff highlighted how accused people on bail on an island have to travel to a jury trial on the mainland at their own expense.

He also questioned if it was fair to ask witnesses to travel to the mainland too.

In a separate case on Wednesday the court heard that there could be the potential for as many as seven Shetland police officers needing to travel to the mainland to give evidence if that matter resulted in a trial south.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank said it appeared to him that Shetland was getting a less favourable deal than other courts on the mainland, and wondered if it was against the principles of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


However, he concluded: “It is perhaps a matter for politicians to debate and resolve.”

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur previously said the situation was “wholly unacceptable”, impacting those facing trial as well as witnesses, victims and lawyers.

In September Scottish Courts said the order on island courts was “under constant review and is consulting with justice partners with a view to returning jury trials to island courts when practically possible”.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.