Courts reform rules to come into effect at beginning of new legal year



New court rules drafted by the Scottish Civil Justice Council (SCJC) which will implement key reforms to Scotland’s civil courts system come into effect later this month.

A raft of significant changes to the civil courts and civil procedure of Scotland will take effect at the start of the new legal year on 22 September 2015.

The SCJC held an information event to explain the new rules to interested parties, and will hold further events later in the autumn.

The changes include: the creation of the new Sheriff Appeal Court with appellate jurisdiction in summary criminal cases including bail appeals and, from next year, with jurisdiction also in civil cases; an extension to the exclusive competence of all sheriff courts to actions with a value of up to £100,000; the introduction of a three-month time limit and a requirement for permission in judicial reviews; a requirement for permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court; the conferring of an all-Scotland jurisdiction on Edinburgh Sheriff Court in personal injuries cases, with the ability to hold civil juries; and new provisions for remits between courts and procedures.

Implementation of the reforms involves the commencement of primary legislation, secondary legislation made by the Scottish government and rules of court made by the Court of Session on the advice and recommendation of the SCJC.

The sheriff courts’ current privative jurisdiction of £5,000 will be replaced by an exclusive competence of £100,000.

New rules as to how the value is determined will be found in Chapter 14B of the Rules of the Court of Session and represent a codification of existing common law principles.

The Personal Injuries (PI) instrument makes changes to the Rules of the Court of Session, the Ordinary Cause Rules and the Summary Cause Rules as part of the establishment of an all-Scotland jurisdiction in personal injuries cases in Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The Sheriff Personal Injury Court will have jurisdiction in PI cases exceeding £5,000, workplace-related PI actions exceeding £1,000, and any workplace-related PI case under £1,000 remitted to the all-Scotland court by a sheriff. In view of the introduction of the exclusive competence of £100,000 across all sheriff courts, a new Chapter 36A, providing for the case management of complex PI cases, is also introduced into the Ordinary Cause Rules.

As a result of the introduction in September of the three-month time limit and the requirement for permission in judicial reviews, a complete rewrite of Chapter 58 of the Rules of the Court of Session has been undertaken. These amendments can be found in the Court of Session instrument.

The new Chapter 58 has been drafted in accordance with the recommendations in the Final Report of the SCJC’s Rules Rewrite Working Group: the drafting has been modernised and the rules are structured in chronological order. The principle that judicial review cases should be speedily determined runs through the rules, which establish a swift timetable for permission decisions and hearings.

Article 4 of a Scottish Government Commencement Order makes transitional provision dealing with judicial reviews where the application, though lodged after that date, relates to grounds that first arose before 22 September. The effect of this provision is that these applications are treated as if the grounds arose on 22 September, meaning that these judicial reviews will have to be lodged by 22 December 2015, if they are to be made within the time limit.

As of 22 September, appeals to the Supreme Court from decisions of the Inner House will require the leave of the Inner House or, if refused, the Supreme Court. The Court of Session instrument therefore sets out, in new Chapter 41A, the procedure for applying for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. This will only apply to judgments of the Inner House made on or after 22 September.