The Scottish Civil Justice Council has published its seventh annual report, outlining its achievements, accounts and a summary of the rules prepared during the year to 31 March 2020.
During the year the Council's work covered four main strands:
- major justice system reform projects, including the impact of Brexit on the civil court reforms, other ongoing matters such as compulsory pre-action protocols and judicial case management, and implementing the civil litigation funding and group proceedings reforms;
- rules relating to new legislation or policy developments, which during the year included proceeds of crime, the Children (Scotland) Bill, and also the judicial rate of interest – on which the Council decided to await the outcome of a consultation being run by the Accountant in Bankruptcy;
- procedural improvements that do not need primary legislation, which resulted in amendments to chapter 42A of the Court of Session Rules, relating to case management of personal injuries actions; and
- review of new rules, which depends on resources but in which a priority is the Simple Procedure Rules, as well as the new rules on taxation of expenses.
The Council has also set out its priorities for 2020-21, of which the high priorities reflect much of the above work, along with case management in sheriff court family law actions, extension of simplified divorce, and a review of the Inner House rules. A further "medium" priority is lay representation and lay support.
Writing his foreword as chair of the Council, the Lord President, Lord Carloway said: "Throughout this period the Council and its committees have continued to respond to rules requests in light of new legislation and policy initiatives. New rules, as well as amendments to existing rules have been enforced over a broad spectrum of subject matter, from reporting restrictions to various 'Brexit' related instruments. A total of 10 sets of draft rules have been prepared by the Council and given legal effect by the Court of Session.
"Council has also continued to support the wider programme of civil court reform envisaged by the Scottish Civil Courts Review (the Gill Review). The Council continues to push for major reforms and build on its success of reviewing judicial review procedure, as well as continuing to review and reform the Simple Procedure Rules and implementing the various aspects of the complex Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Act 2018. Despite the difficulties posed by the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the Council continues to work towards implementing key initiatives."