The Scottish Government has published details of controversial plans to overhaul the civil court system in Scotland, following on from recommendations made in Lord Gill’s Scottish Civil Courts Review (SCCR).
The proposals will have a big impact on personal injury cases.
Scottish Civil Courts Review
The Rt Hon Lord Gill, then Lord Justice Clerk, now the Lord President of the Court of Session, was appointed in 2007 to head a wide-ranging review of Scotland's civil courts.
The resulting report made 206 recommendations for change - the majority of which were broadly endorsed by the Scottish Government as necessary for ensuring Scotland has an efficient and effective civil justice system for the 21st century.
Key reform proposals
The Scottish Government has now launched a consultation over proposals that will implement many of these recommendations, and will restructure the way civil cases and summary criminal cases are dealt with by the courts in Scotland. These reforms include:
Personal injury issues
The Scottish Government considered a number of different options in response to the SCCR recommendation that a specialist personal injury court be established with a Scotland-wide jurisdiction - including whether to create the court at all.
However, it eventually agreed in principle with the recommendation, and has made provision in the draft Bill for this to be in any sheriff court. It will also permit any sheriff court to be given all-Scotland jurisdiction in specified types of proceedings.
Civil jury trials
The SCCR also recommended that civil jury trials should be extended to the specialist personal injury court but not to those actions that are litigated in other sheriff courts. This is because the proposed increase in the level at which actions may be brought in the Court of Session rather than the Sheriff Court (£150,000 rather than £5,000) will apply to personal injury actions too.
Some of these personal injury actions would currently be eligible for trial by jury in the Court of Session, and the Government does not want to change the procedures involved. It therefore intends to make civil jury trials available in the specialist personal injury court, but not other sheriff courts.
The proposals mean that claimants will have a choice between raising an action in their local sheriff court or the central specialist court.
The Government highlights however, that when other SCCR proposals for greater specialisation among sheriffs take effect, there may be at least one sheriff in each sheriffdom who specialises in personal injury actions. This means, it says, that it may not be necessary for actions to be raised in the specialist court in order to access a specialist sheriff.