Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014

Following Lord Gill’s Scottish Civil Courts Review, the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 is now in force.  The Act came into law on 10th November, 2014 and in a recent speech, Lord Gill, has described the Act as “the single most important piece of legislation in the field of civil justice for over a century.”  As such, the Lord President has now intimated a timetable for implementing the provisions of the Act.  The effects of the legislation will be felt over the coming few years as the changes come into effect.

 

Amongst the proposals is the creation of the new post of Summary Sheriff.  The appointment process to the post is expected in July 2015. The new judicial tier will see Summary Sheriffs dealing with summary criminal business in the various courts throughout Scotland. In addition,  Summary Sheriffs will deal with new simple procedure in low level civil actions and this procedure will come into force in Spring of 2016. This will involve proceedings for payment actions not exceeding £5000. Detailed rules are awaited but these will be designed to allow the Summary Sheriff to identify the issues in dispute, facilitate negotiation among the parties with a view to secure settlement, to generally assist the parties to reach settlement and to adopt procedure appropriate to the particular circumstances of the case. This potentially innovative new procedure could lead to a less formal judicial approach to the resolution of small value actions. This would be a welcome approach to cases where parties are less likely to have the benefit of legal representation.

 

By September, 2015, a number of key reforms will take effect.  The following will take place:-

 

  1. The establishment in Edinburgh of a Sheriff Court with Scotland-wide jurisdication for personal injury cases;
  2. The extension of the exclusive jurisdiction of the Sheriff Court to actions with a value of up to £100,000.00;
  3. The establishment of the Sheriff Appeal Court with jurisdiction for criminal cases and, after January 2016, with jurisdiction in civil cases;