Mon 28 Sep 2015

Actions for reduction in the sheriff court

If you want to challenge the existence of a legal document in Scotland because it is wrong, fraudulent or even forged then you need to raise an action of reduction. 

Until recently it was necessary to raise this type of action in the Court of Session as the only way in which reduction could be sought in the sheriff court was by way of exception.  However following the change to the ordinary cause rules, which came into force on 25 May 2015, it is now possible to raise some actions for reduction in the sheriff court. 

This change was part of the ongoing reform following the passing of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, section 38 of which introduced competence for a sheriff to hear actions of reduction (and also actions of proving the tenor of a document).

Sheriffs now have the power to determine whether documents such as wills and dispositions may be reduced in an ordinary cause action.  Indeed, there is only one exception which is court decrees where it remains necessary to seek the reduction of these in the Court of Session given that it is not thought to be appropriate for one sheriff to reduce a decree granted by another. 

They way in which these actions for reduction will operate in the sheriff court will be similar to the Court of Session.  Grounds for seeking reduction could be matters such as undue influence, misrepresentation, error, facility and circumvention, fraud or gratuitous alienations.  The pursuer will need to produce the document which they are seeking reduced, if they have it, along with their initial writ.  The test of whether to grant reduction will remain a matter for the court's discretion looking at whether substantial justice favours the granting of the reduction in the particular circumstances of the case. 

However, the cost of seeking the reduction of a documents in the sheriff court will be considerably less than compared with raising an action in the Court of Session which makes raising this type of cases in the sheriff court a more attractive prospect. 

Please contact a member of our litigation team if you need any assistance with an action for reduction.

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