Court Reform (Successfully?) Drags Scotland Into The 21st Century
The year 2015 saw Scotland’s civil justice system undergo massive reform.
The Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 came into force on 22nd September 2015 and made some necessary changes to administering Scotland’s civil court system.
The value of claim in the Sheriff Court can now amount to £100,000 compared to the previous limit of £5000. An increase of £95,000, aimed at reducing the waiting list at Scotland’s top civil court, the Court of Session.
The Court of Session has played host to claims for £5000 and above – therefore catching the majority of claims which go through the civil process – and in turn making operating the Court of Session efficiently near impossible due to the volume of cases undertaken. In addition to this, Court of Session cases were generating expensive legal fees for the public which were often disproportionate to a claim near the lower tipping point of £5000. The switch to the Sheriff Court is expected to substantially reduce the financial burden on parties involved in a case and therefore promote access to justice.
Claims of up to £100,000 being heard in the Sheriff Court will certainly increase expediency in Scotland’s chief Civil Court and allow it to deal with claims of higher value and consequently usually complexity. In anticipation of the increased caseload the Sheriff Court introduced a simplified procedure for claims of £5000 or under.
In addition to this the introduction of the new Personal Injury court in Edinburgh has proved a revelation. The specialist Sheriff Court boasts national jurisdiction and provides a central court for the ever increasing area of Personal Injury litigation. It also allows Personal Injury jury trials to take place – an interesting concept and a first for a Scottish Sheriff Court.
Other changes including extending the new Sheriff Appeal Court to civil cases and a new simple procedure to replace the current small claims and summary cause procedures are still to be introduced as part of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014.
It is still early days in the new dawning but so far the courts’ seem to have adapted without teething problems. The Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 itself appears to be an astute piece of legislative drafting which will force the Scottish court system into a required evolution into the 21st century.
Author: Mariel Kaney, LLB Hons, currently studying the Diploma in Legal Practice
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