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Trials in absence workable, says sheriff principal

4 May 2006

The deliberate absence of the accused from a criminal trial should not stop it from going ahead, Sheriff Principal John McInnes told the Justice 1 Committee yesterday.

Sheriff McInnes chaired the summary justice review committee whose report formed the basis of the Scottish Executive's proposed Criminal Proceedings etc (Reform) Bill.

He said the absence of the accused in summary cases would be acceptable if he or she was aware the case was due to call. If it was a straightforward case and the accused had not turned up, but all the other witnesses had, it was then an issue of whether or not the Crown could prove the charge. He added that safeguards would need to be put in place if it turned out there was a reason for the absence.

The sheriff principal also explained that the longest delays in the criminal justice system were the time between the accused first being charged and the first appearance in court, and he suggested a four-week maximum from the date of being charged.