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Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016

Section 81 – First diets

205.Section 81 deals with the procedure at first diets in proceedings on indictment in the sheriff court.

206.Subsection (2) amends section 66 of the 1995 Act. Subsection (2)(a) requires the notice served on the accused with the indictment to include a warning to the accused that the first diet may proceed in his or her absence and that a trial diet may be fixed in his or her absence. This is distinct from the intimation that requires to be given by virtue of section 66(6AA) where the accused is a body corporate. However, even if the notice does not contain this warning, the amendment to section 66(6B) of the 1995 Act made by subsection (2)(b) ensures that the validity of the notice, and other procedure against the accused, is not invalidated by the omission.

207.Subsection (3) amends section 71 of the 1995 Act. The amendments provided for in subsection (3)(a), (b) and (d) are consequential on the new arrangements whereby the trial diet is appointed at the first diet (see discussion below of new section 71B). Subsection (3)(c) ensures that the requirement in section 71(6) that the accused should be called upon to plead at the first diet does not prevent the first diet proceeding in the absence of the accused. Subsection (3)(e) extends to the new section 71B discussed below the definition of the word “court” in section 71 of the 1995 Act, so that in the new section 71B references to the court will be understood as references to the sheriff court only.

208.Subsection (4) inserts a new section 71B into the 1995 Act, to deal with appointment of a trial diet at the first diet.

209.Subsection (1) of the new section 71B provides that, having taken the steps and examined the issues required at the first diet, the court only then goes on to appoint a trial. The appointing of a trial has to be in accordance with subsections (3) to (7), which are discussed below. Subsection (2) requires the accused to appear at the trial diet.

210.Subsections (3) and (4) of the new section 71B apply when a case is subject to the requirement that the trial must commence within 12 months of the accused’s first appearance on petition. If the court considers that the case would be likely to be ready to proceed to trial within the 12 months (which may not be 12 months from the petition appearance, because the period can be extended under section 65(3) of the 1995 Act) the court must, subject to subsections (5) to (7) appoint a trial within the 12 month period. If the court does not think the case will be ready to proceed within the 12 months, the prosecutor must be given an opportunity to seek an extension of the 12 month period. If an extension is granted the court must, again subject to subsections (5) to (7), appoint a trial within the 12 month period as extended. If the period is not extended the court may desert the first diet (either permanently or for the time being only) and if the accused is being held in custody pending trial, the accused must be liberated.

211.Subsections (5) to (7) of the new section 71B apply where, in addition to the court being required to appoint a trial diet within the 12 month period under subsection (3) or (4), the accused has been committed until liberated in due course of law (i.e. imprisoned to await the outcome of a trial) and cannot be detained by reason of that committal for more than 140 days without being put on trial. In that event, as well as appointing a trial diet within the 12 month period, the court must appoint a trial within the 140 day period if it is satisfied that the case will be ready to go to trial within that period. If the court is not satisfied about that, the prosecutor must be given an opportunity to apply for an extension of the 140 day period. If an extension is granted the court must appoint a trial for a date within the 140 day period as extended (as well as within the 12 month period). If the period is not extended the accused is entitled to be admitted to bail. In that event, subsection (8) requires the court to give the prosecutor an opportunity to be heard before admitting the accused to bail.

212.Where the court has appointed a trial diet for an accused on bail (other than in the circumstances where the accused has been bailed as described in the previous paragraph) subsection (9) of the new section 71B requires that the court must review the accused’s bail conditions and empowers it, if it considers it appropriate, to set different conditions.

213.Subsection (10) of the new section 71B defines the 12 month and 140 day time limits with reference to the applicable provisions of section 65 of the 1995 Act.

214.Subsection (5) of section 81 amends section 76(3) the 1995 Act which makes provision for the situation where a diet fixed as a result of an intimation given by the accused under section 76(1) of the 1995 Act (that he intends to plead guilty) does not result in pleas being accepted in respect of all charges. The amendment allows the court to postpone a first diet where a case has been indicted to the sheriff court on the same basis as the power to postpone a preliminary hearing where the case has been indicted to the High Court.

215.Subsection (6) inserts a new section 83B into the 1995 Act applying to jury trials in the sheriff court. The section allows trials that have not yet been commenced to be continued from sitting day to sitting day, up to a maximum number of sitting days after the day originally appointed for the trial, the maximum being set by Act of Adjournal. Failure to commence the trial by the end of the last sitting day permitted results in the indictment falling and proceedings against the accused coming to an end.

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