THE Law Society of Scotland has warned that Scottish Government proposals to radically overhaul Scotland’s civil court structure could produce a deluge of work for Scotland’s sheriff courts, causing significant delays for those who depend on local courts.
The proposals, contained in the draft Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, significantly increase the threshold for cases to be heard by the Court of Session.
Currently, the Court of Session can hear all civil cases where the sum sued for is £5,000 or above. The draft bill proposes changing the requirements, so that only cases valued at more than £150,000 can be raised in the Court of Session.
Kim Leslie, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s civil justice committee, said: “If the proposals are implemented as currently drafted, a deluge of cases could hit Scotland’s sheriff courts.
“There is a risk that sheriff courts will be unable to cope with the volume of new work suddenly arriving at their door.
“We expect this to be made worse by the recent Scottish Government decision to support the closure of 20 per cent of sheriff courts across Scotland.
“If sheriff courts are unable to cope with the increased workload, there could be significant delays for court users.”
The Law Society of Scotland’s civil justice committee carried out research in to the effects of raising the threshold to £150,000. The research revealed that only 254 cases settled with a value in excess of this figure, which represented less than 2 per cent of Court of Session business.
Ms Leslie added: “If the proposals are implemented as currently drafted, we could end up in the paradoxical situation of an almost completely deserted Court of Session, while court users in the sheriff courts suffer long delays as the courts struggle to cope with an increased workload.
“The Scottish Government is right to raise the threshold; however, we would prefer to see the limit set at no more than £50,000.
“This would allow cases
with a lower value, but which still raise complex issues of matter of fact or law, to continue to be heard by the Court of Session.”
• Kim Leslie, Convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Civil Justice Committee