Lord Gill's Scottish Civil Courts Review completed in 2009 proposed a detailed package of structural and functional reforms of the civil Courts system including:
- reform of the structure of the civil court system, including planning for elimination of part-time resources other than for emergencies, an increase in specialist Sheriffs, a national Sheriff Appeal Court, increasing exclusive jurisdiction of Sheriff Court (to £150,000) and creation of district judges to hear civil claims of modest value;
- a new case management model, including cases allocated to specific judges/sheriffs, most cases subject to judicial case management and simplified/interventionist procedure for claims under £5,000;
- increased use of IT in courts;
- free mediation services for claims under simplified procedure;
- compulsory pre action protocols in personal injury cases;
- enhancement of courts case management powers;
- online register of cases with explanation required for decisions outstanding for longer than 3 months;
- overhaul of judicial review and public interest litigation; and
- specialist procedure for multi party actions.
In total, the review made 206 recommendations for reform of the civil courts system. One recommendation was to establish a Scottish Civil Justice Council to replace the existing rules councils of the Court of Session and sheriff court, with an additional policy role to make recommendations for the improvement of the civil justice system.
The Scottish Government have indicated a commitment to implementing Lord Gill's recommendations and have issued a consultation seeking views on their proposals to create a Scottish Civil Justice Council. It is proposed that the Council would be almost entirely devoted in its first few years to taking forward the major changes proposed by Lord Gill for civil courts reform. However, as well as taking forward these reforms, it is also proposed that the Council should be designed to make the functioning of the civil justice system more naturally adaptive, taking into account regular feedback and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
The proposed general functions of the Council are:
- to review the practice and procedure followed in civil proceedings in the Court of Session and sheriff court;
- to prepare and submit to the Lord President draft rules of procedure for the courts;
- in carrying out these functions, the Council should consider how to make the civil justice system more accessible, fair and efficient, and also to consider broader issues of dispute resolution and avoidance, including the development of mediation;
- where appropriate, to make other recommendations for change.
A copy of the consultation can be obtained by following the link below.