The Scottish Government’s Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill has recently been scrutinised by members of the Parliament’s Justice Committee, who have now published a report questioning some of the key provisions of the Bill.
In the report, the Committee has said that it welcomes the general principles of the Bill, but is concerned about Government proposals to increase the monetary threshold for an action in the sheriff court from £5,000 to £150,000.
In addition, the report says that:
- The creation of a nationwide Sheriff Appeal Court should lead to greater efficiencies, but the Committee suggests that all appeals should be heard by sheriffs principal rather than sheriffs, as their judgments would apply throughout Scotland.
- The Committee heard evidence on the key role which honorary sheriffs play in dealing with urgent business in rural areas where a sheriff may not be available. Whilst agreeing that the position of honorary sheriff should be abolished, the Committee asks for assurances that rural and remote areas will not be disadvantaged by this approach.
- 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. However, there were concerns about the capacity of the new court and the Committee therefore recommended that the personal injury court is established prior to the new level of privative jurisdiction being introduced.
- The Committee, in the context of whether the level of privative jurisdiction should be the same for personal injury and commercial cases, considers that the issue of a Scotland-wide commercial court deserves more consideration.
The report and its recommendations have been welcomed by the Law Society of Scotland.
“The Scottish Government is right to raise the threshold for cases being heard in the Court of Session, however we have consistently said that we believe the £150,000 threshold to be too high and would prefer to see the limit set at £50,000,” commented Fiona Robb, secretary to the Law Society of Scotland’s Civil Justice Committee.
“We’re therefore very pleased that the Justice Committee has recognised the concerns raised and has recommended to Government that the proposed level should be lowered to ensure that serious and complex cases valued below £150,000 would continue to be heard in Scotland’s highest civil court,” she added.
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