The global pandemic has resulted in a backlog of cases which could take up to five years to be resolved. The Scottish justice system is under significant strain as lockdown resulted in all, other than the most serious of cases, to be postponed to a later date. 
Officials have been advised that to deal with the backlog it will take a significant amount of time. Some estimates previously showed that it would take until at least 2025. 
In September a recovery programme was implemented by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service which increased the number of high courts from 16 to 20. However, David Fraser, executive director of court operations stated that recent projections have pushed the estimations back further for clearing the backlog. 
He stated: “In our current projections, it will take us a couple of years – potentially 2026 – before we get the backlog that’s been created back under control,” he told the Criminal Justice Committee at Holyrood. It’s essential that we continue with that recovery programme, with that additional level.
“We could go beyond that and further increase our capacity, but you’ve got finite resources, as you will well know – not just ourselves but the Crown Office and the defence community as well, particularly in terms of being able to gear up to even more of a recovery programme.”
At the beginning of trial, Fraser had initially suggested that it would take 22 weeks from the first appearance of the accused. As a result of the pandemic that timescale has increased to ‘just under one year’. 
He said: “That is still a considerably long time and I appreciate the time that is taken before that when it’s with Crown and police – so from a victim’s perspective it is a long time,” 
Mr Fraser also addressed the attempts made to speed up the process. However, he added: “The key, for me, within the court service is making the best use of slots we have available for trials to proceed.”
Further to this, he reached out to both prosecutors and defence lawyers to ensure trials go ahead before a not guilty plea is entered.