The Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill was published Friday, detailing sweeping changes for the system of civil justice in Scotland.

The Scottish Civil Courts Review

In 2007, the Scottish Government commissioned Lord Gill, then the Lord Justice Clerk, to conduct a review of the Scottish Civil Courts system. After an extensive period of work over 2 years, Lord Gill presented the report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review (the 'SCCR') in 2009. The Scottish Government accepted the vast majority of the report's recommendations, and the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill implements many of these reforms.

The Bill

The headline reforms contained in the Bill include:

  1. Increasing the privative jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts from £5,000 to £150,000. Meaning any cases for values under £150,000 must be raised in the Sheriff Courts. The Bill does, however, contain provisions allowing for cases to be remitted, in either direction, between the Sheriff Court and the Court of Session.
  2. The creation of a new, national Personal Injury Court where specialist Sheriffs will hear personal injury cases from all over Scotland.
  3. The creation of the post of Summary Sheriff. This new level of the judiciary will hear low value civil cases as well as summary criminal matters.
  4. Provisions to create specialist Sheriffs, and Summary Sheriffs, in the areas of family law, housing, personal injury and commercial law.
  5. The creation of a Sheriff Appeal Court. This new body will be staffed with Appeal Sheriffs made up of the Sheriffs Principal from the six Sheriffdoms in Scotland. The Sheriff Appeal Court will be able to sit at any Sheriff Court in Scotland and may remit an appeal to the Court of Session if it raises a complex or novel point of law.
  6. The introduction of a new 'Simple Procedure' for actions of £5,000 or less. This new procedure will replace the existing Small Claims and Summary Cause procedures.
  7. A new three-month time limit for bringing judicial reviews in the Court of Session.
  8. New procedures for bringing appeals to the Inner House of the Court of Session, and for some appeals to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. A single Inner House judge may now grant leave to appeal, and some appeals to the UK Supreme Court will require the permission of the Inner House, or the Supreme Court if permission is refused by the Inner House.

Comment

The contents of the published Bill are substantially similar to the draft Bill that was published in February 2013. The reforms which are proposed will bring about substantial changes to the Scottish civil justice system and the impact of these changes must be considered very carefully. The Bill will now proceed through the Scottish Parliament and it is possible that some sections of the Bill may be amended. Watch this space.