Making Justice Work: Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, a Consultation Paper
The Government has recently published a Consultation on the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. Responses are required by 24th May 2013.
For those of you who want to see the documents themselves, the Consultation can be viewed online on the Consultation webpages of the Scottish Government website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/02/5302.
The Consultation is a very wide ranging one covering issues such as how cases should be divided between the Sheriff Court and the Court of Session. It is, for instance, suggested that for the future all action valued at less than £150,000 should be raised in the Sheriff Court rather than Pursuers having the option to go direct to the Court of Session.
In many ways LSA has no difficulties with these proposals, although, whether the £150,000 limit is the correct one (maybe it should be lower) is a matter for discussion.
The Consultation Paper also discussed the creation of a new “tier” for the Sheriff Court of Summary Sheriffs. The idea is that the Summary Sheriffs would deal with a range of matters with the work of Sheriffs being more focused.
LSA has supported the introduction of the new tier, commenting that we hope that Summary Sheriffs would have more time to deal with cases as well as an opportunity for some degree of specialisation. After all, almost everybody else in the legal system specialises to a greater or lesser extent and this should be a principle applied to the Sheriff Court too.
LSA is comfortable with the Summary Sheriffs dealing with housing (i.e. eviction cases) and we think the way forward for protecting the rights of tenants and members of their families is further law reform rather than creating a whole new panel system (see above).
In any event, the Consultation does include an idea that LSA cannot support.
Currently in Scotland there is no formal time limit for the bringing of Judicial Review proceedings. Obviously in a homelessness case, or many other matters Judicial Review is pushed forward speedily.
However, in some matters where there is a campaign group or a novel issue involved it may be difficult or impossible for the individual or individuals or community affected by the administrative decision by local or central Government or another organisation to identify the possibility of a remedy, instruct appropriate legal advisors and find funding, all within the 3 month time limit as proposed by the Government.
We propose responding to the Consultation by suggesting that the time limit for raising Judicial Review actions should be one year.
We would hope that other organisations that share our views will respond to the Consultation in similar terms.