The long awaited Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review was issued yesterday. In February 2007, the then Minister for Justice announced that the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, was to head a review of the provision of civil justice by the courts in Scotland, covering matters such as the cost of litigation to parties and to the public purse; the role of mediation and other methods of dispute resolution; the development of modern methods of communication and case management; and the issue of specialisation of courts.
The Review was to make recommendations for changes with a view to improving access to civil justice, promoting early resolution of disputes, making the best use of resources, and ensuring that cases are dealt with in ways which are proportionate to the value, importance and complexity of the issues raised.
The recommendations made, if implemented, would amount to a root and branch change for the way civil justice is administered in Scotland. The recommendations include:-
- The designation of a number of sheriffs as specialists in particular areas, including commercial work
- The extension of the exclusive jurisdiction of the sheriff court from its current level of £5,000 to £150,000
- The establishment of a new judicial office – that of district judge, to sit in the sheriff court and hear summary criminal business and civil claims of modest value
- The introduction of a new set of rules for cases for £5,000 or less (which would be heard by a district judge)
- The establishment of a national Sheriff Appeal Court to hear appeals from sheriffs and district judges
- The introduction of a docket system in the Court of Session and sheriff court – in terms of which a case would be allocated to a particular judge or sheriff who would deal with all hearings in that case
- The transfer of sheriff court actions to a court in which a sheriff with the relevant specialism is resident, with procedural business being conducted by e-mail, telephone, video conferencing or in writing
- Changes to judicial review and public interest litigation
- Increased use of IT
- Changes in relation to the recovery of expenses and means to achieve an uptake of legal expenses insurance
The full Report is available at
http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/civilcourtsreview/index.asp. It is almost 700 pages long. In the coming week, we will be issuing e-updates dealing more fully with the central recommendations.