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Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill: Analysis of Consultation Responses

The Scottish government recently published the analysis of the responses to the consultation on the draft Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, which was held earlier this year. In total, there were 115 responses to the consultation.

The consultation set out proposals and reforms to restructure the way in which civil cases and summary criminal cases are dealt with by the Scottish courts. The proposals are designed to implement the majority of the reforms recommended by Lord Gill in his Scottish Civil Courts review in 2009. The analysis of the responses indicates that there was clear majority support for almost all of the proposals in the consultation:

  • Two thirds of those who responded were in support of the proposal to increase the exclusive jurisdiction of the sheriff court, which is currently £5,000. This would lead to the transfer of a significant amount of business from the Court of Session to the sheriff court. There was limited consensus, however, over whether the appropriate level for the sheriff court’s exclusive jurisdiction should be £150,000, as recommended in the consultation. Many of the responses indicated that this was too high. The responses also highlighted that it was extremely important that the ability to remit a case from the sheriff court to the Court of Session and vice versa should be retained.

  • There was wide spread support for the creation of a central sheriff appeal court to deal with civil appeals as this was seen as an efficient and economic measure which would allow appeal hearings to be dealt with quickly and would provide consistency of approach across sheriffdoms.

  • Over three quarters of those who responded supported the establishment of a special personal injury court. It was thought that this proposal would lead to a reduction in costs and the more prompt resolution of cases, although there was a divergence of opinion as regards whether the specialist court should be located in Edinburgh or Glasgow. In addition, there was no overall consensus on whether civil jury trials should be allowed in the new specialist personal injury court. Under the current system, a claimant in a Court of Session action can opt to have his or her case heard by a jury, rather than a judge sitting alone, but this option is not available in sheriff court actions.

  • More than half of those who responded were positive about the promotion of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) by means of court rules, although a significant number of respondents qualified their support, with many noting that ADR should not be compulsory. Overall, ADR was seen as a cost effective approach that enabled resolution of matters more quickly than litigation. A significant number of respondents noted that ADR is not appropriate in some types of cases, especially personal injury actions.

The Scottish government’s legislative programme for 2013/14 includes the Courts Reform Bill, which covers the proposals outlined in the consultation.

By Catherine Hart

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.