The Scottish justice system could face a backlog of more than 3000 cases by next year as social distancing measures required to reopen courts would reduce capacity by two-thirds, MSPs have been told.

A working group is now considering options on resuming jury trials north of the border following their suspension in March due to lockdown.

One potential plan is to have each jury spread across three separate courtrooms to ensure social distancing measures can be enforced.

Reducing the number of jurors required for each trial is also being considered - but such a plan would require new legislation and could face opposition from MSPs.

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Holyrood's justice committee heard today that the present courts estate is not suitable for social distancing and substantial work would be required to allow for even a limited reopening.

Some civil cases have already resumed in Scotland - with evidence being heard via video link - but restarting criminal trials which require a jury is proving more problematic.

Eric McQueen, chief executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS), said jury trial were unlikely to resume in "any real numbers" until around August or September.

"Our aim would be to have at least a small number of jury trials up and running by the early part of the summer," he said.

"Quite clearly the major issue is court facilities and social distancing. The group has already looked extensively at architects' design plans on what that would mean.

"They are looking at how we can look after the juror and access routes throughout the building.

"They are also looking at the jury not necessarily being based in the same courtroom - but they could be videolinked from a different location."

He added: "The trial by smaller juries would clearly be something that would have to come back to parliament for legislation.

"But a smaller jury may allow a wider range of courts to be used."