Wed 03 Feb 2016

A new era for Scottish justice

The new All Scotland Personal Injury Court was established on 22 September 2015, implementing Lord Gill's recommendations from the Scottish Civil Courts Review.   The exclusive competence of all Sheriff Courts has been increased from £5,000 to £100,000.

This means that many personal injury cases which were previously heard in the Court of Session will now be heard by the new All Scotland Personal Injury Court.   Specialist personal injury Sheriffs have been appointed; Sheriffs Paul Arthurian QC, Peter Braid, Gordon Liddle, Katherine Mackie, and Fiona Reith QC.

The court rules are similar to those for personal injury cases in the Court of Session.    The main changes are the introduction of e-motions and jury trials to the Sheriff Court.   E-motions ought to bring greater efficiency to the court, as they can be intimated, opposed and granted more quickly, and some can be considered and granted by clerks exercising their quasi judicial role.   It will be possible to have cases heard by juries in the new court as well.

The court is based in Edinburgh, where renovations to the Sheriff Court building have enabled the All Scotland Personal Injury Court to be created from the former agents' room.   It looks quite different now, with its stylish bench and spacious jury box, than it did in the days when it was packed full of agents gossiping about their latest victories and enjoying the best toast in the capital.

What is our experience of the new court?

We have seen fewer cases raised in the new court than we would have expected.   This is partly due to the fact that some pursuers' agents raised a large number of cases in the Court of Session immediately prior to the limit change, thus clearing out the backlog.   It is also due to some pursuers opting to raise personal injury cases in their own local Sheriff Court, rather than in the new court in Edinburgh.   Once agents build up confidence in the new court, this may well change.

Given we have seen fewer cases raised than expected, our solicitors have spent more time admiring the new facilities while at a drinks reception to celebrate its opening.   It does bring with it more opportunities for solicitors conducting advocacy themselves in cases.   The team at MF are looking forward to doing so, particularly if it means they are able to fulfil every litigator's dream of addressing a jury!

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