Professional Practice summary of the main features of the court reforms, and their timing

I know that court reform is coming soon – but what is happening and when?

The key features of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 will begin to be implemented on 22 September – the start of the new legal year.

The main effect of the reforms will be to shift substantial amounts of court business from the Court of Session to the sheriff courts. This is achieved by:

  • a substantial increase in the threshold for cases to be heard in the Court of Session, from £5,000 to £100,000;
  • establishing a specialist sheriff court in Edinburgh with a national jurisdiction to hear personal injury cases;
  • creating a Sheriff Appeal Court to hear many of the appeals that currently go directly to the Court of Session. It will begin to hear civil appeals in January 2016, but from 22 September 2015 it will hear all summary criminal appeals;
  • a new judicial post – the summary sheriff – to resolve lower value civil cases such as debt cases more swiftly and efficiently, while also dealing with summary criminal cases, all with effect from early 2016;
  • replacing summary cause procedure – which includes small claims – with a new simple procedure, also from early 2016.

There are also new procedures for judicial review cases in the Court of Session, including a three-month time limit, and new procedures for appeals within the Court of Session and some appeals to the UK Supreme Court, to improve efficiency.

The relevant statutory instruments/Acts of Sederunt are described in the feature on p 16, which also sets out the categories of cases in which the all-Scotland personal injury court will have jurisdiction. Note that cases which proceed to proof in this court will be heard by a civil jury unless special cause is shown.

What more can you tell me about what is happening with summary cause cases?

The Personal Injury Committee of the Scottish Civil Justice Council will soon turn its attention to developing simple procedure personal injury rules, which will adopt the style and language of the new simple procedure rules being developed by the Council’s Access to Justice Committee.

The new simple procedure rules will replace the existing small claims and summary cause rules. I understand that the committee is aiming for implementation in spring 2016.

Until those rules are finalised, the existing summary cause rules will continue to apply to personal injury actions raised in local sheriff courts.

The Author
Fiona J Robb is a solicitor in the Professional Practice team, who worked in personal injury litigation before joining the Society 
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