The Scottish Parliament‘s Justice Committee has now published its fifth report on the controversial Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, which implements the recommendations of Lord Gill’s Review overhauling the Scottish civil court system.
The report, which references submissions made by Lawford Kidd, makes it clear that whilst the Committee welcomes the Reform Bill’s general principles, serious concerns remain, particularly in relation to the proposal to increase the monetary threshold for Sheriff Court actions from £5,000 to £150,000.
The Justice Committee Convener and MSP, Christine Grahame commented:
“There can be no doubt from the evidence we heard that reform of the Scottish civil court system is long overdue. However, our Committee is not convinced that some of the measures in the Bill will necessarily achieve what is hoped.
“Improving access to justice is a key part of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. Freeing up the Court of Session to deal with the most complex and serious cases is a step in the right direction. However, raising the monetary threshold from £5,000 to the proposed £150,000 raised questions about whether this is too great a leap.
“Not only would these reforms perhaps restrict access to counsel, but there are concerns about the capacity of sheriff courts to deal with the increase in cases. Our Committee recommends that the Scottish Government give serious consideration to lowering the monetary limit.”
Commenting on the latest report, James Wolffe QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said:
"I am pleased that the concerns which the Faculty and others have expressed about certain aspects of the Bill have been recognised. I look forward to continuing to work with Ministers and others towards achieving an improved civil justice system for Scotland which allows ordinary litigants to secure the highest quality representation. We believe that there are measures in the Bill which will - along with all the other work which is being done to reform civil justice in Scotland - lead to an improved system and which ought to be supported."
The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee welcomed the proposal to establish a specialist personal injury court but raised their concerns regarding the capacity of the new specialist court, recommending it be established before the new level of privative jurisdiction is introduced. The report states:
‘The Committee welcomes the proposal to establish a specialist personal injury court as part of a package of measures to ensure that cases are heard in the most appropriate courts. We do, however, note the concerns of some witnesses regarding the capacity of the new court. We therefore recommend that the personal injury court is established prior to the new level of privative jurisdiction being introduced to ensure that the court is fully equipped with the necessary electronic and administrative systems to ensure it can work effectively from day one.’
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