Described this morning as the “single most important piece of legislation in the field of civil justice for over a century”, Lord President Gill has announced the timetable for the implementation of the changes brought by the Court Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. For more about the proposed reformsclick here.

Timetable

The key dates for your diary looking forward are: 

July 2015: appointment process for first Summary Sheriffs to be put in hand 

September 2015

  • Sheriff Court - exclusive jurisdiction to hear claims with a value of up to £100,000; 
  • New Scotland-wide Personal Injury Court to open in Edinburgh; 
  • Establishment of a new permission stage for judicial review; 
  • New Sheriff Appeal Court opens for new criminal appeals. 

January 2016: New Sheriff Appeal Court to start hearing civil appeals 

Spring 2016: simplified procedure for claims up to £5,000 starts before the new Summary Sheriffs 

Alongside these structural reforms is a commitment to use judicial specialisation, case management and flexibility to make sure that the most productive use of court time is always achieved. The focus of the courts in the new regime will be firmly on meeting the needs of the court user.

Delivering a 21st century court

In a welcome move, Lord Gill also this morning predicted a move to delivering a truly paperless court, with filing of documents from lawyers’ desks. Virtual courts with remote access are also expected in due course. There is also a suggestion of a move away from pure reliance on oral evidence at hearings, perhaps utilising written statements more frequently, as is now the norm in commercial procedure.

Scope for a new Energy and Natural Resources Court in Scotland

Interestingly, and in a new development, the success of the Commercial Courts has prompted the Lord President to launch a feasibility study into the creation of an Energy and Natural Resources Court based in Edinburgh. It is anticipated this new Court would focus on dispute resolution for the oil and gas sectors in Scotland. We await the results of that study with interest – and in particular, how it might interact with the International Centre for Energy Arbitration and the Scottish Arbitration Centre, already actively resolving these disputes.

Comment

The shape of the timetable for the reforms is promising – successful delivery of this new infrastructure is now the next challenge. 

We will release a more detailed commentary reflecting on the implementation of the reforms shortly – in the meantime, should you wish to discuss how these changes might affect you, please get in touch with us. 

A copy of the Lord President’s speech can be viewed here.