Courts reform a major step forward, but could still lead to delays, Law Society says
Civil court reforms were welcomed by the Law Society of Scotland today, however it also cautioned access to justice could be affected and delays encountered following the passing of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill this afternoon.
The Bill will bring about major reforms to the Scottish civil justice system, including increasing the threshold for cases being heard in the sheriff court from £5000 to £100,000, the introduction of specialist sheriffs and a three-month time limit for bringing judicial review applications.
Kim Leslie, convener to the Law Society of Scotland’s Civil Justice Committee said:
“This Bill is a major step forward in civil court reform and we recognise that the current system is long overdue for such reform. We very much welcome the introduction of specialist sheriffs, many of whom will be former solicitors. They will have practised in a specific area of law such as housing or family law for many years and will be extremely well placed to adjudicate these types of cases.
“We do however still have real concerns about how the courts are going to resource some of the other changes, such as the change in the jurisdiction limit. This will have the knock on effect of hugely increasing the number of cases going through the sheriff courts, where previously they would have been raised in the Court of Session. Along with the programme of court closures that is currently underway, the pressure on the system is likely to lead to delays, and members of the public who use the courts will have to wait longer for judgements.”
The Bill also introduces a three-month time limit to bring a judicial review application.
Ms Leslie said: “We still have serious concerns that a three month time limit to bring a judicial review application is unduly restrictive. Together with the requirement for permission to bring an action from the Court of Session, and the need to prove to the court that the application has a real prospect of success, this is in our view too high a test and will seriously reduce access to justice. ”
Notes to editors
All of the Law Society of Scotland's written evidence to the Justice and Finance committees, stage 1 and stage 3 briefings and a link to our oral evidence session can be viewed the Law Society of Scotland website
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