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Long-running Renee MacRae case due back in court

By Neil MacPhail

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Renee MacRae.
Renee MacRae.

THE Renee MacRae case is due back in court next month, more than a year after the man accused of murdering her and her toddler son Andrew appeared in court in Inverness.

At that time Bill MacDowell made no plea and was released on bail.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said this week a preliminary hearing in MacDowell’s case was scheduled for October 12 at the High Court in Glasgow. It is likely MacDowell will enter a plea at that stage.

It 12 months since MacDowell (77), and formerly from Inverness, was arrested and charged with murdering Mrs MacRae and three-year-old Andrew 44 years ago.

Earlier this week Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain called on the Scottish Government to take action to speed up cases through the court. He said that Covid-19 had now exacerbated the already slow progress of cases through the courts.

Andrew MacRae.
Andrew MacRae.

Mr Mountain said: “The family of Renee MacRae have waited a desperately long time for justice to be served. That’s why I am calling on the Scottish Government to take urgent action and speed up the process.”

Mrs MacRae’s sister Morag Govans, from Inverness, had no comment other than to say: “Things are bound to be put back.”

The latest figures from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service show that nationally 22,437 trials are still waiting to be called in court, up from 18,355 in 2019/20.

A Scottish Government spokesman said about case progress in general: “We understand the impact trial delays have on victims, witnesses and accused, and recently announced £5.5 million to establish the ground-breaking solution of remote jury centres which will allow the High Court to return to pre-Covid capacity.

“The impact of Covid-19 is being felt by jurisdictions across the world and there are no easy answers. We are working tirelessly with partners, including victims’ groups, the Scottish courts and prosecution services, and the legal profession, to quickly find the best possible way to deal with the backlog.

“This includes consideration of remote jury centres in sheriff and jury cases, optimising the use of the physical court estate within the prevailing public health requirements, increased use of digital technology where appropriate and additional support to organisations supporting victims.”

Related: More than 600 cases waiting to be heard in Highland capital

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