Court reforms must ensure access to justice
Austin Lafferty, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "The Making Justice Work - Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill consultation paper which was launched today, Wednesday, 27 February, presents a blueprint for reform of the courts, something which is much needed.
"We have been very supportive of the civil court review carried out by Lord Gill and welcome the proposed specialisation in courts. We hope the reform proposals will reinvigorate the court system to ensure access to justice and that the needs of litigants are central to its function. However we believe court reform alone cannot achieve these objectives and maintaining an adequate network of local and accessible courts and a broad and deep legal aid system is essential.
"We have concerns about some of the proposals including the time bar on judicial review cases being reduced from there being no limitation to three months. Judicial reviews are frequently complex and difficult court actions. They are often about holding the government and public bodies to account in their fulfilment of their statutory duties and are an important means for people to assert their rights. Three months will often be too short a period to bring forward such cases.
"We have been supportive of increasing the threshold for civil cases going to the Court of Session from £5,000, but would have preferred to see the limit set at no more than £50,000. Such a large jump is likely to mean that many cases with a lower value but which may still raise complex issues of matter of fact or law, will be removed from the Court of Session.
"We also have concerns at the prospect of introducing an additional judicial tier, summary sheriffs, at a time when the Scottish Court Service has identified the need to close a number of courts.
"The Law Society looks forward to considering the proposals in detail and will submit a full response in due course."
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Val McEwan on 0131 226 884. Email: email@example.com
27 February 2013