Airdrie – Cumbernauld – Motherwell – Bellshill – Coatbridge – Wishaw
Hamilton Ross
Solicitors and notaries
Serving Clients in Lanarkshire for over 15 Years.

All change at the Sheriff Court.

The recent Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 made significant changes to the influence of, and way that, the Sheriff Court in Scotland operates. Not only have they reduced the number of them, but their role in the administration of justice and civil disputes has changed. For those of you who have not yet looked at the act it can be downloaded from this link:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2014/18/contents

For Glaswegian readers the role of the stipendiary magistrates or Stip’s Court has been abolished, instead being replaced by the first of the act’s many reforms – that of the Summary Sheriff. The Summary Sheriff is a new role and he or she sits in the new Summary Sheriff court in order to provide a dedicated outlet for criminal AND minor civil cases, thus allowing more time for civil and commercial business. We will not notice this change much as the Summary Sheriffs have the powers of an ordinary sheriff and the penalties when before them are the same, however it is hoped that by taking summary criminal cases out of the daily court business it will make the sheriff court more efficient.

That said, the Sheriff court will see an increase in civil cases that would have gone to the Court of Session in the past. The reason for this is due to the second of the act’s major reforms; the Sheriff court now has privative or sole jurisdiction in cases where the value of the claim is under £100,000 and includes personal injury cases. The Court of Session has jurisdiction for cases of over £100,000 value. This is a significant procedural change, where until this act, it was possible to raise a civil action for cases of as little as £5,000 value in the Court of Session. Civil procedure too is changing, or is at least in the process of being changed from the current system of small claims and ordinary actions with differing value levels to what is now called ‘simple procedure’ where if the value of the case is less than £5,000 it MUST be raised under these new rules in the sheriff court, see the following link for the discussion on this important topic.

http://www.scottishciviljusticecouncil.gov.uk/news/2015/11/25/consultation-on-the-draft-simple-procedure-rules

The next major reform is the creation of the Sheriff Appeals Court, which is another new court altogether. It replaces appeals to the Sheriff Principal in civil cases and will also take appeals in summary criminal cases from January 2016, it has been hearing bail appeal applications since the 22nd of September 2015.

Another significant procedural reform is made by the act in relation to appeals, apart from those structural changes mentioned above there is now the necessity for ‘leave to appeal’. You must have leave of the court to appeal your case to a higher court and it will be granted only in limited circumstances for example, where the court agrees and where it is a case of ‘an arguable point of general public importance…’ – Automatic rights of appeal to the higher courts are a thing of the past. A civil appeal to the Sheriff Appeals court brought under simple procedure ends at the Sheriff Appeals Court, under Ordinary procedure it may proceed to the Inner House of the Court of Session but only if it meets the above test.

Author: William McGregor, LLB, Dip LP

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm.

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