As part of our regular updates on the changes brought in by the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014; most recently in June last year, this article sets out the position now that most of the changes are in force and rounds up what is still to come.
Changes to date
The majority of reforms contained in the Act have now been put into place. These have important implications for the process of carrying out litigation in Scotland. Some of the key reforms that have been implemented include:
- The “Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service” has replaced the Scottish Court Service and the Scottish Tribunals Service.
- The exclusive jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts has been increased from £5,000 to £100,000.
- A new Sheriff Appeal Court has been established and has started hearing criminal appeals (since September 2015) and civil appeals (since January 2016) in relation to Sheriff Court decisions throughout Scotland. For appeals from this court to the Court of Session, appellants will require permission from the Sheriff Appeal Court or, if this is refused, from the Court of Session itself. Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC has been appointed as President of the Sheriff Appeal Court.
- A new specialist Personal Injury Court with Scotland wide jurisdiction has been set up in Edinburgh.
- A new Judicial Review procedure has been put into place. The grounds for review have been changed, a permission stage and a shortened three month time limit for raising proceedings has been introduced.
- A new requirement has been introduced for appeals to the UK Supreme Court. Now an appeal to the Supreme Court requires the permission of the Inner House or the Supreme Court itself.
Further Changes due in 2016
Over the next few months we are expecting the appointment of new Summary Sheriffs to deal with the new Sheriff Court “simple procedure” (for civil cases with values up to £5,000 as well as summary criminal business) and certain family and housing matters.
Other Changes in Prospect
Once the simple procedure commences this spring the major changes brought about by the Court Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 will be in force. There are, however, a few changes that have not yet been timetabled. These include sections providing for vexatious litigation orders, orders having effect outside a sheriffdom and provisions for lay representation for non-natural persons.
Outside the Court Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, there are two further possible changes in prospect. Following on from a manifesto commitment of the Scottish Government, a feasibility study is being launched into the creation of an Energy and Natural Resources Court. Also, the Scottish Government has consulted on a new Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation Bill. This follows the recommendations in Sheriff Principal James Taylor’s Review of the Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland and is designed to create a more accessible, affordable and equitable civil justice system (for more information on this review please see our article here).
As previously noted, these changes are intended to modernise the court process in Scotland and make carrying out litigation here more efficient. They have been broadly welcomed and, whilst it is too early to comment on their success, these changes and future reforms will be watched with interest.