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Coronavirus (COVID-19): information for those due to attend court

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to have a significant impact on the Scottish criminal justice system. COPFS is working closely with justice partners and with Scottish Government on measures which will support the fair and effective administration of justice whilst respecting the public health guidance which has been issued.

Following the Scottish Government’s restrictions announced on 4 January 2020, all court buildings remain open, however from 12 January 2021 until 26 February 2021 a restricted court programme will be operating. If you have received a citation for a jury trial between those dates you must still come to court unless expressly advised by us not to attend. If you have received a citation for a non jury trial between those dates you will receive personal confirmation from us if you are still required to attend. You will know if you have been cited as a witness in a jury trial because your citation will refer to the case as 'HMA v the accused person’s name'. Further guidance for witnesses is provided below. If you are in any doubt about whether you should be attending then please contact us on the number supplied on your citation.

Travel to take part in court proceedings is expressly permitted.  Any victim or witness who has concerns about travelling to a location with higher restrictions is reminded that travel to give evidence at court is permitted as essential business. Safety measures are in place to protect all court users. You will find the latest hygiene measures on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website.

With this in mind, we have issued the information below for different court users.

This section contains:
1. General information relating to disruption due to coronavirus
2. Information for those cited to attend court as a witness
3. Further information for victims and witnesses
4. Support groups and resources

 

1. General information

There are currently delays in the criminal justice system and we are sorry for the inconvenience and anguish that this may bring. The delays are due to the impact of the Coronavirus global pandemic which caused disruption to the scheduling of court business and the consequent limitation on numbers of persons attending courts. Agencies in the criminal justice system have been working hard to overcome those difficulties and get court business running again.

Please bear with us as we work with other agencies to regularise court business.

We understand that the delay in allowing cases to be concluded can be frustrating for victims and witnesses and create anxiety during what is already a very unsettling time for everyone and their families.

Please be assured that we are doing all that we can to ensure that the criminal justice system recovers and that cases can be heard as soon as possible. We are working with the Police and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) to progress as many cases as quickly as we can and to ensure that witnesses that require to attend court can do in a safe and appropriate manner taking account of all the public health guidance.

We will keep you updated on the progress of your case, including any new date for you to attend at court as a witness. In the meantime please do not hesitate to contact COPFS if you have a specific query around your case and we will help you. You can contact us on (0300 020 3000) or, for witnesses in cases covered by our Victim Information and Advice (VIA) Service, by contacting the VIA officer assigned to your case.

We are also working closely with other organisations that provide specialist support services to victims and witnesses. You will find contact details for a number of national support agencies below who may be able to provide assistance or advise you of other local support services for additional help and support.

We will continue to post up to date advice for victims and witnesses on this website.

Your assistance in supporting the criminal justice system is very much appreciated.

 

2. Information for those who have received a witness citation

  • High Court cases – High Court trials are running. Please attend as a witness in accordance with your citation.
  • Sheriff and Jury cases – Sheriff and Jury cases are running.  Please attend as a witness in accordance with your citation.
  • Sheriff Court and JP court cases - Some trials are proceeding.  From 12 January, do not attend as a witness unless you are contacted by COPFS directly. If you have not been contacted please telephone our Enquiry Point on 0300 020 3000 two working days before the trial date. They will put you in touch with the local office, who will advise if you are still required and if so what time you should attend.
  • Appeal court - Cases are continuing as normal.

If you do have to attend court, there are additional hygiene and physical distancing measures in place to help everyone who attends court stay safe. The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) have published guidance on how they are keeping their buildings safe, secure and clean.

If you are self-isolating, showing any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or are in any of the higher risk categories and you are due to attend court to give evidence please call the COPFS Enquiry Point on the contact details below.

We appreciate that all this uncertainty will have an impact on some vulnerable victims and witnesses, who may feel more at risk, isolated or have reduced access to sources of support. We want to reassure you that maintaining public safety is a key priority and we will continue to work closely with the police and other key partner organisations supporting victims and witnesses to ensure public safety is maintained. Click here for contact details of national support agencies.

Enquiries regarding witness availability for Sheriff and Jury cases for the Witness Engagement Team should be sent by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The Witness Engagement telephone number is not currently in use. If you have already received your citation to appear as a witness, then use the Enquiry Point email or phone number listed in the 'Contact details' section.

Victims and witnesses with caring responsibilities

At the time of writing, the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 allow people to leave their homes, leave their local areas; and enter other peoples’ homes for the purposes of providing or accessing childcare or to care for a vulnerable adult.

If you are a victim or a witness who has been cited to court and you have caring responsibilities for a child or vulnerable adult, you should explore whether another responsible adult is able to look after your child or vulnerable adult whilst you attend court.

COPFS will pay a fixed hourly rate if you are a prosecution witness (which includes victims) and you need to pay a childminder to look after your child whilst you are attending court. The rates are: £1 per child per hour if the childminder is not registered; £3.50 per child per hour if the childminder is registered. In order to claim this payment you should complete the Childminder expenses form for witnesses attending court and submit it to COPFS along with the Expenses Claim Form attached to your witness’ citation. Evidence confirming the names and ages of each child (e.g. a copy of a birth certificate) must be attached or payment will not be made. COPFS will not pay loss of earnings AND childcare expenses (unless there are special circumstances).

You should not bring a child or vulnerable adult whom you are looking after to court because they will not be allowed to enter the court building due to restrictions on capacity.

3. Further information for victims and witnesses

 

4. Contact details for national support agencies

You can find further information in relation to support agencies on our Victim support and Witness Support pages.

  • If your trial has already started, you are still required to attend court every day.

  • If your trial has not started, please contact your solicitor who will be able to provide you with advice and guidance. 

  • If you do not have a solicitor, please contact the Sheriff Clerk’s office at the court you are due to attend.  You will also find information on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website.

  • If you have dates for a First Diet or a Preliminary Hearing, DO NOT ATTEND COURT – the Sheriff Clerks will contact your solicitor about these events.  If you do not have a solicitor, contact the Sheriff Clerks about your case.

  • If you have been served with a Summary Complaint from the Procurator Fiscal, you should contact your solicitor by phone or respond to us in writing, using the reply form that is attached in the letter you have received.

  • If you have been released by the police on an Undertaking to attend court, you should still attend court on the date specified on the undertaking unless the Procurator Fiscal has informed you to attend on a later date.

In all instances, please ensure that you inform your Solicitor if you are self-isolating, showing any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or are in any of the higher risk categories and you are due to attend court.  Your solicitor will be able to keep you informed and communicate what is required from you during the COVID-19 emergency period.

If you don’t have a solicitor acting for you and are self-isolating, showing any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or are in any of the higher risk categories and you are due to attend court, please contact the COPFS Enquiry Point.  Contact details are provided below. 

If you do have to attend court, there are additional hygiene and physical distancing measures in place to help everyone who attends court stay safe.  You can read more about this on the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service website.

Please do not attend court in person to pay your fine.

Please visit Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service website for details of how to pay online.   

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Telephone: 0300 020 3000, rates from mobile telephones may vary by provider.

Telephone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 4.30pm.  Emails will be responded to outside these times.

Calls can be made through RNID Typetalk. Please prefix our telephone number with 18001.

Deaf sign language users should text on 07825 280346, specifying if you would prefer your reply by sms, text or email.

Enquiries regarding witness availability for Sheriff and Jury cases for the Witness Engagement Team should be sent by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The Witness Engagement telephone number is not currently in use. If you have already received your citation to appear as a witness, then use the Enquiry Point email or phone number listed above. 

We have communicated information directly with solicitors. A copy of this communication is available to view and download: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and COPFS - Information for Solicitors.

If you are a solicitor who would like to discuss plea resolution, please use the contact details below:

Grampian, Highlands and Islands
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Tayside, Central and Fife
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North Strathclyde
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South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway
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Lothian and Borders
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Glasgow
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  • Glasgow Plea Hotline: 0141 420 7001 (9.30am-1pm)