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Committee queries Courts Reform Bill 12/05/2014 The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has queried key aspects of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, which seeks to reform Scottish civil court processes.

Committee queries Courts Reform Bill

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has queried key aspects of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, which seeks to reform Scottish civil court processes. The report particularly questions proposals to increase the monetary threshold for an action in the sheriff court from £5,000 to £150,000.

“There can be no doubt from the evidence we heard that reform of the Scottish civil court system is long overdue. However, our Committee is not convinced that some of the measures in the Bill will necessarily achieve what is hoped,” explained Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP.

“Improving access to justice is a key part of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. Freeing up the Court of Session to deal with the most complex and serious cases is a step in the right direction. However, raising the monetary threshold from £5,000 to the proposed £150,000 raised questions about whether this is too great a leap,” she said. “Not only would these reforms perhaps restrict access to counsel, but there are concerns about the capacity of sheriff courts to deal with the increase in cases. Our Committee recommends that the Scottish Government give serious consideration to lowering the monetary limit.”

The Committee has made a number of other recommendations, including:

  • While it welcomed the idea of a proposed nationwide Sheriff Appeal Court, the Committee felt that such appeals should be heard by sheriffs principal rather than sheriffs.
  • It sought assurances that remote and rural areas will not be disadvantaged if honorary sheriffs are abolished. 
  • The specialist personal injury court should be established before the new level of privative jurisdiction is introduced, to prevent problems of capacity.
  • The Scottish Government should look again at the possible creation of a nationwide commercial court, in the context of privative jurisdiction levels.

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