Complete Clarity Solicitors


The Court Reform (Scotland) Bill Defended by the Lord President

At the Law Society of Scotland’s annual general meeting, the Lord President has strongly defended the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill in his speech entitled ‘Looking over the horizon – life after the Courts Reform Bill’

It is no secret that the Bill has been widely criticised – perhaps most of all by Scotland’s personal injury lawyers, some of whom believe that the four year consultation period between the Gill Review and the Bill was simply a waste of time – with many questions being left unanswered, genuine concerns remaining unaddressed – particularly in relation to the implementation of any changes – and existing problems arguably worsened.

Of all the proposals put forward, the two most concerning to Scotland’s personal injury lawyers are, firstly, the intention to create a Specialist Personal Injury Court, and secondly, to increase the limit of private jurisdiction in the Court of Session from £5000 to £150,000.

With regards to the Specialist Personal Injury Court, details appear to be lacking in terms of the suggested court’s functionality or where it would be located. Moreover, it remains unclear where the desired Specialist Sheriffs will be obtained.

Filling such positions may be more difficult than anticipated as the Specialist Sheriffs, if as has been suggested, will have to undertake the vast majority of the personal injury cases currently heard in the Court of Session, following the suggested increase on the limit of private jurisdiction to £150,000. It should be said however, the Scottish Government believe that the change will result in mere three percentage of personal injury case will switching courts.

Furthermore, there are fears that access to justice will be hindered: not improved as intended by the reforms. For if there was a large decease in the number of cases heard in the Court of Session, the concern is, not only will there be increased delays, but seeking individuals reparation may be unable to obtain the same level of expertise of dealing with the so often complex personal injury cases, in the Sheriff Court. In other words, quality representation will be harder to find and obtaining justice is likely to take longer.

In his speech at the AGM, the Lord President recognised that the Court Reform (Scotland) Bill presented challenges but moved to allay the fears and concerns of the profession assuring them that the proposals would not reduce access to justice, but instead extend opportunities to solicitors who would now be able to take up the mantle of more affordable and therefore more accessible advocates – in the Sheriff Courts. The Lord Advocate also defended the proposal increased in the threshold for jurisdiction, stating that the decision to do so was taken and careful consideration with evidence to support it.

Before concluding, the Lord President urged solicitors to become involved in the reform process – an opportunity afforded to them by the Scottish Civil Justice Council and it’s associated Committees.

Overall, whilst the Lord President’s speech may have helped to allay certain concerns harboured by the personal injury sector as well as the wider profession and encouraged some to become more involved, it remains evident that questions require be answered and better explanations given, if this reforms have to be taken forward and the more modern and efficient justice system is we all seek, is achieved.