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Court Reform changes take effect

Published: 22 Sep 2015 12:30
Part of:
Law and order

New courts open under major modernisation of Scotland’s court system

The opening of two new courts has marked the biggest modernisation of Scotland's courts in more than 100 years.

The new Criminal Sheriff Appeal Court and Sheriff Personal Injury Court have opened today (September 22), marking the start of the new legal year.

The new courts underpin the key aim of court reform, to ensure that the right cases are heard in the right courts.

Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse, said: "These reforms will help us ensure that the right cases are heard in the right places and therefore reduce unnecessary delays."

"We want to create a modern justice system that is fair, accessible and efficient and that meets the needs of the people of Scotland today and these reforms are a key part of this.

"If we can encourage earlier resolution of disputes and make more efficient use of court resources this will improve the public's access to effective justice.

"The Criminal Sheriff Appeal Court will ensure that summary criminal appeals are heard swiftly and efficiently at the appropriate level, reducing the number of criminal appeals which require to be dealt with in the High Court. The Sheriff Personal Injury Court will provide a centre of expertise where personal injury claims will be resolved fairly and efficiently benefitting those involved in these actions.

"We have listened to the points raised by the Justice Committee and legal profession around Legal Aid for the new Sheriff Appeal Court. Arrangements are in place for the opening of the new court and we are committed to engaging with the profession over the coming months and looking at the fees issue more widely."

Other measures which improve the structure and operation of the courts also come into force including raising the threshold below which only the sheriff court can deal with civil cases to £100,000 and introducing changes to the procedures for Judicial Review and certain appeals to the UK Supreme Court. The changes address recommendations made by Lord Gill's Scottish Civil Courts Review.

Notes to editors

The measures are part of a package of reforms to Scotland's court system heralded by the Scottish Civil Courts Review. The Scottish Parliament approved the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 and has since enacted further secondary legislation to implement the upcoming changes. The Scottish Civil Justice Council has also prepared the necessary court rules.

Upcoming measures under the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act include a new simple procedure which will replace the present small claims and summary cause procedures, summary sheriffs and a Civil Sheriff Appeal Court.

The Criminal Sheriff Appeal Court is a new appeal court that will hear summary criminal appeals from Justice of the Peace and sheriff courts. It will also hear bail appeals in summary or solemn proceedings from these courts. An onward appeal to the High Court will be available subject to a strict test.

The Sheriff Personal Injury Court, located at Edinburgh sheriff court, will provide a new central forum of expertise for personal injury cases. The court will deliver benefits including specialist personal injury sheriffs, specialist personal injury court procedures and civil jury trials. This should help these cases to settle swiftly and efficiently.

The threshold under which only the sheriff court can deal with civil cases will rise to £100,000 freeing up the Court of Session to deal with Scotland's most complex and high value civil legal disputes. The Sheriff Personal Injury Court will have jurisdiction in personal injury cases exceeding £5,000, workplace-related personal injury actions exceeding £1,000, and any workplace-related personal injury case under £1,000 remitted to the court by any local sheriff.

The Scottish Civil Courts Review, led by the then Lord Justice Clerk the Rt Hon Lord Gill, found that the Scottish civil courts provided a service to the public that was slow, inefficient and expensive. The Review recommended the establishment of these new courts as part of the solution of ensuring an efficient civil courts system.

Lord Gill's Report on the Scottish Civil Courts Review
http://scotcourts.gov.uk/about-the-scottish-court-service/the-scottish-civil-courts-review

Scottish Government response to the Scottish Civil Courts Review. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/11/09114610/1

Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2014/18/contents/enacted