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Cross justice conference


Apr 1, 2021

A cross-justice conference held this week brought together prosecutors and defence lawyers in a bid to improve the way summary criminal cases are handled in Scottish courts.


The physically distanced conference, held at the East Kilbride Remote Jury Centre, provided an opportunity for engagement between the judiciary, prosecutors and defence as the courts work towards improving the way pre-intermediate diet meetings (PIDMs) are conducted.

PIDMs enable discussion between the prosecution and defence to resolve cases earlier and more efficiently, freeing up court time for trials and preventing witnesses from attending court unnecessarily.

Although the initiative has proven successful in reducing court footfall and securing early resolution, challenges have emerged in relation to organising the PIDMs.

Working together to resolve the issues, the cross-justice conference agreed that there will be closer collaborative working, improved communication and enhanced guidance in relation to the procedure.

Aisha Anwar, Sheriff Principal of South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway, who organised the conference, said: “I am delighted with the way all involved have worked collaboratively through these early issues in such a constructive way. By bringing the participants together we were able to find solutions that will go a long way to ensuring summary criminal cases are dealt with more effectively and efficiently for all involved.”

Ken Dalling, Vice President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “Taking a collaborative approach is key to improving the criminal justice system. The conference provided a welcome opportunity for discussions involving defence agents and prosecutors from each of Scotland’s sheriffdoms, bringing national and local perspectives on a range of technical and operational issues. It is vital that we continue to work together to develop solutions as we continue to deal with the challenges of the pandemic.”

Deputy Crown Agent of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) Stephen McGowan said: “COPFS will continue to work closely with justice partners to respond to the challenges the sector has faced and promote good communication with the wider legal profession to make improvements that will not only benefit the justice system now, as it recovers from the effects of the pandemic, but in the years to come as well.”

Participants also welcomed the existing benefits of PIDMs, which include:

  • a more comprehensive and structured mechanism for engagement between the defence and the Crown  
  • dealing with intermediate diets administratively thereby reducing the need for defence agents to attend at court
  • identifying whether resolution can be achieved at an earlier stage, thereby creating greater certainty for complainers and witnesses
  • a process that assists with the identification of possible virtual trials, priority trials, and vulnerable witness issues.

1 April 2021