SCOTLAND’S top lawyers have warned the Scottish Government’s courts shake up raises “significant concerns for the delivery of justice”.
• Under plans out to consultation, thousands of civil cases would go to sheriff courts instead of the Court of Session
• The concerns are rooted in equality of access and representation
Under plans out to consultation, thousands of civil cases would go to sheriff courts instead of the Court of Session, in a bid to deliver cheaper and quicker justice.
However, the Faculty of Advocates warned the government’s new recommended threshold is too high.
Richard Keen QC, dean of the faculty, said: “Whilst many aspects of the proposed changes are welcome, essential, and overdue, other key proposals of the package of reforms proposed by the Scottish Government raise significant concerns for the delivery of justice in Scotland.
“Our concern, as lawyers and as citizens, is that those most in need of assistance should be able to secure equality of access and representation. That is overwhelmingly in the public interest.
“We consider the proposals contradict that principle in two key respects.
“First, the proposal to remove cases from the Court of Session of a value less than £150,000 is flawed. At present, cases worth more than £5,000 can be raised in the Court of Session.
“A rise to £150,000 represents an increase of 3,000%. That, on any view, is extreme and unwarranted. By way of useful comparison, the equivalent figure in Northern Ireland is £15,000, and in England £50,000.
“Secondly, the proposal to deprive people of the automatic right to counsel for cases worth up to £150,000 will guarantee inequality of representation. It is in the public interest that the historic right to counsel should be preserved.”