The following message has been received from Sheriff Principal Turnbull -
Notwithstanding the duty incumbent on Crown and defence in terms of section 257 of the 1995 Act, we continue to do what we can to encourage the agreement of relevant evidence to prevent the unnecessary attendance of witnesses at court. From the reports I receive from sheriffs in relation to the intermediate diet courts it would appear that more might be capable of being done in this regard.
I am assured that the agreement of evidence is discussed at PIDMs, however, the general view of sheriffs is that quite often witnesses are being brought to court to give evidence which is not truly controversial.
A suggestion has been made to me that if the Crown’s summary of evidence were to be provided to the sheriff at the intermediate diet court it may be possible to more proactively “encourage” the agreement of certain evidence. As matters presently stand, if a defence agent says evidence cannot be agreed the sheriff is in no position to challenge that. I do not feel that is particularly satisfactory.
I recognise this approach has limitations. It clearly will not be possible in cases in which PIDMs take place.
I have raised this suggestion with the Procurator Fiscal, who sees the advantage of providing the evidential summary to sheriffs to assist with the effective management of intermediate diets. The Crown are able to send this to the clerks as part of the work done when a plea of not guilty is entered. Any summary provided would be removed from the court papers prior to trial.
I indicated to the Crown that, if this was a matter they were interested in exploring, I would discuss matters with the GBA and the RFPG before taking it any further.
If you have any thoughts in relation to this, I would be grateful to receive them by 27 September 2022.
Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull
Sheriffdom of Glasgow & Strathkelvin