One of the first purpose-built Justice Centres in Scotland opened on the 30th March to help support the delivery of justice during unprecedented times.
The immediate focus of the new Justice Centre will be for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Services (SCTS) and courts to prioritise critical business, and the Centre will operate as one of 10 key court hubs, during COVID-19.
Courts have already ceased jury trials, adjourned all but essential criminal and civil hearings to reduce the need for physical attendance at court. Further moves are planned to allow custodies to appear from police stations by video link, minimising presence in court and travel.
Construction on the landmark facility — by Robertson — began in 2017, intending to bring together integrated justice services under one roof to support victims, witnesses, litigants and other users, with specially designed facilities for children and vulnerable witnesses.
Inverness Justice Centre was procured through Scape Group’s National Major Works framework (which has now been superseded by Major Works Scotland). This procurement route is part of the Scape National Construction framework.
Frank Reid, Managing Director for Robertson Northern, commented: “Inverness Justice Centre is the first of its kind in Scotland and we’re proud to have worked with the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service to deliver this facility.
“COVID-19 is presenting challenges to the way many of us traditionally carry out our work but with modern design and state-of-the-art facilities, the Justice Centre is ensuring that SCTS can continue its crucial business during this uncertain period.
“The complex is a new landmark for the city and a clear representation of the changing face of justice in Scotland.”
However, while the IJC will play a pivotal role in maintaining essential justice services for Scotland during the current crisis, SCTS advises that people should stay away from the building unless they must attend for court proceedings.
Anyone who is required to attend the new Inverness Justice Centre will be subject to strong hygiene and social distancing requirements. Although courts do not provide masks, those who must attend court are welcome to bring their own to use.
In line with health advice, all courts, including the IJC, have an ample supply of hot water and soap for handwashing. There is ongoing cleaning throughout the day and regular sterilisation of touch points. Courts have been providing legal practitioners with regular information in relation to conducting business without appearing in court.
Eric McQueen, Chief Executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service commented: “This is a landmark building, which, in the future, will offer Inverness the very best of facilities for court users. There is the unique opportunity for all the organisations involved to have an integrated approach to community justice services with the objective of reducing re-offending.”
Sheriff Principal of Grampian, Highland and Islands, Derek Pyle, said: “This is a milestone for Inverness and gives us so many opportunities. It will offer a new, collaborative approach, bringing together under one roof the courts and tribunals, prosecution, social work, NHS, and other third sector organisations — all providing specialist services. For now it gives us a spacious, clean and digitally enabled centre to operate our services during this Coronavirus outbreak.”