Views on far-reaching changes to the Scottish civil courts system are being sought by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee in a call for evidence published today.
The Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill broadly implements recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review led by Lord Gill and published in 2010. The Review concluded that the Scottish civil courts provide a service to the public which is “slow, inefficient and expensive” and recommended that “the court system has to be reformed both structurally and functionally”.
Among the proposed changes in the Bill is a move to increase the monetary threshold for raising civil action in the sheriff court from £5000 to £150,000 to allow the Court of Session to focus on the most complex civil cases. It would create a new judicial office of ‘summary sheriff’ to cover a more restricted range of civil and criminal matters and a new Sheriff Appeal Court that aims to reduce the number of criminal and civil appeals which require to be dealt with in the High Court and Inner House. The Bill also proposes establishing a specialist Scotland-wide court, initially intended to deal with personal injury cases.
Justice Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said:
“Lord Gill’s Review of the Scottish civil courts identified an expensive and inefficient system which was failing to deliver justice and accessibility to the public. This Bill seeks to make some radical changes to address these shortcomings.
“We would like to hear the views of people and groups who actually use the service, along with those of legal practitioners whose day to day work may be significantly affected by the provisions in the Bill.”
The link to the call for evidence which is open until 19 March 2014 (although earlier submissions would be welcome) is below:
Call for evidence
The Bill was introduced in the Parliament on 6 February 2014. The Bill seeks to implement recommendations in the Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review published in 2009 and led by Lord Gill.
The Review examined, “the provision of civil justice by the courts in Scotland, including their structure, jurisdiction, procedures and working methods having particular regard to the cost of litigation to individuals and the public purse; the role of mediation and other methods of dispute resolution in relation to court process; the development of modern methods of communication and case management and the specialisation of courts or procedure, including the relationship between the civil and criminal courts.