Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Civil Courts Review

The Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review was launched this morning. The review began its work on 2 April 2007 to report on the provision of civil justice by the courts in Scotland, including their structure, jurisdiction, procedures and working methods, having particular regard to;

• the cost of litigation to parties and to the public purse

• the role of mediation and other methods of dispute resolution in relation to court process

• the development of modern methods of communication and case management; and

• the issue of specialisation of courts or procedures, including the relationship between the civil and criminal courts

Picking up on some points from the synopsis that may have some impact on family law;

Key Themes

• The need for a greater degree of judicial specialisation.  Practitioners and 
court users were strongly in favour of a greater degree of specialisation in the sheriff court,principally in family law, commercial law, personal injury, consumer and housing cases.  The current system makes specialisation and judicial continuity difficult to achieve.  

• Party litigants and a new forum or method for dealing with lower value 
cases.  For litigants who do not have legal representation, even those court 
procedures designed with them in mind may be inaccessible.  Respondents 
also noted that party litigants may cause unnecessary expense and delay 
through  unfamiliarity  with  procedures  or  disruptive  behaviour  and  that 
firmer  measures  are  sometimes  required  to  deal  with  those  who  pursue 
claims without merit or behave unreasonably.  
• Problems relating to the cost and funding of litigation.  Respondents drew 
attention  to  the  cost  of  litigation  and  observed  that  only  those  with 
considerable wealth or who are eligible for legal aid can afford to litigate.  
There were concerns about the shortfall between what clients have to pay 
their legal advisers and what they can recover in expenses from the other 
party,  and  also  about  the  taxation  of  judicial  accounts. 

Structure of civil court system
• A system should be introduced whereby a number of sheriffs in each sheriffdom should be are designated as specialists in particular areas of practice, including solmen crime, general civil, personal injury, family and commercial.

A new case management model
• [New] District judges new will have jurisdiction to hear housing actions, actions for payment of £5,000 or less, and referrals and appeals from children’s hearings, and concurrent jurisdiction with sheriffs in family actions.

•In the sheriff court actions will be transferred to a court in which a sheriff with the relevant specialism is resident. Procedural business will be conducted by email, telephone, video conferencing or in writing.

Mediation and other forms of dispute resolution

• The Report recognises the value of Alternative Dispute Resolution ....

Access to justice for party litigants
•There are recommendations for the promotion of public legal education , improved online provision of information for members of the
public the development of in‐court advice services nd the rights of lay representatives (or ‘McKenzie friends’) of party litigants

Civil Courts Review Source Scottish Courts

See also Scottish Parliament Information Centre research briefing.


Stephen Moore 29 March, 2010 11:23  

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Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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