Fri 29 May 2015

An update on changes under the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014

This week has seen progress of courts reform in Scotland quicken pace with changes to the Ordinary Cause Rules to set out new procedures for actions of proving the tenor and actions of reduction (although not reduction of court decrees) in the Sheriff Court coming into force on Monday.  

These changes will be followed in September by the introduction of many of the more substantial reforms set out under the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014.

One of the September changes is the most debated change under the 2014 Act - the increase in the exclusive competence of the Sheriff Courts.  This increase will give sheriff courts exclusive competence in cases where the aggregate total value of all the orders sought (not including interest and expenses) is £100,000 or less.

The new specialist personal injury court, which will provide parties seeking damages for injuries the additional option of raising claim in this specialist court should they not wish to bring their case in the ordinary sheriff court, is also due in September.  The court is expected to be based in Edinburgh and we await publication of the rules which will provide further detail on its procedure.

In addition, we anticipate that changes to judicial review and, in particular, the introduction of the new requirement to obtain permission will come into force in September.  It has not yet been stated, but we would expect that the introduction of the three month time limit for parties to raise judicial review proceedings may also to come into force at this time.

Finally, September will also see the introduction of the Sheriff Appeal Court with the appointments to that court having just been announced. We were pleased to see that the appointments included Sheriff Peter Braid who many of you will remember from his time as a Partner at Morton Fraser. Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC was confirmed as the President of the Court and Sheriff Principal Craig Scott QC as Vice President. The other appointments are: Sheriff Principal Alastair Dunlop QC, Sheriff Principal Brian Lockhart, Sheriff Paul Arthurson QC, Sheriff John Beckett QC, Sheriff Alasdair MacFadyen, Sheriff Kenneth MacIver, Sheriff John Morris QC, Sheriff Nigel Morrison QC, Sheriff Sean Murphy QC, Sheriff Michael O'Grady QC and Sheriff Nikola Stewart QC. This court will start to hear criminal appeals from September with civil appeals on decisions of sheriffs transferring to it next year.

Looking further forward into Spring 2016, we are also awaiting the introduction of the new simple procedure in the Sheriff Court which will be carried out by Summary Sheriffs, whose appointment should commence later this year.  There is no doubt that the forthcoming changes will make it a very interesting time for litigators in Scotland.

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