Sheriff courts will be 'overwhelmed' by cases and delays
Sheriff courts face the prospect of being overwhelmed with cases and delays due to proposed civil court reforms, the Law Society of Scotland has warned.
The Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill proposes to introduce a £150,000 threshold for cases to be heard in the Court of Session and is being debated in the Scottish Parliament, tomorrow, May 21.
Ahead of the stage 1 debate, Fiona Robb, Secretary to the Society's Civil Justice Committee, said:
"We support the majority of the recommendations of the Justice Committee, and we agree with the government that the threshold needs to be raised from its current £5,000. We have, however, consistently said that the proposed threshold of £150,000 for cases being heard in the Court of Session is too high. We were pleased to see the Justice Committee recognised this in their report and would prefer to see the limit set at £50,000. Such a radical increase in the threshold will result in a large transfer of cases to the sheriff courts. Without the number of sheriffs being increased, and along with the current programme of closures across the court estate, this is likely to lead to delays which will adversely affect access to justice. A threshold of £50,000 will ensure that the majority of serious and complex cases will continue to be heard in Scotland's highest court.
Fiona Robb continued: "We are also concerned about the changes to judicial review proposed by the Bill. The introduction of a three-month time period in which to bring a judicial review application seems overly restrictive and will in our view significantly reduce access to justice. It will be difficult for community groups or legal aided parties to secure funding within this period."
Notes to editors
The stage 1 debate on the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill will take place on Wednesday 21 May at 3.30pm.
The Law Society of Scotland's written evidence to the Justice and Finance Committees and full stage 1 brief, along with a link to our oral evidence session, can be viewed the Law Society of Scotland website.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Louise Docherty on 0131 476 8204 or Val McEwan on 0131 226 8884