Lord Carloway: Justice system may need further reforms

Lord Carloway was installed as Lord President of the Court of Session yesterday. He aims to make legal process more efficient. Picture: Jane Barlow

Lord Carloway was installed as Lord President of the Court of Session yesterday. He aims to make legal process more efficient. Picture: Jane Barlow

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Scotland’s most senior judge has used his inaugural speech to say the country’s legal system may need further reforms.

Lord Carloway made the remarks yesterday morning while he was being installed as Lord President of the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The head of Scotland’s judiciary told an audience of lawyers and VIPs that the legal system needed to keep pace with technological developments.

And he said that current laws regulating the length of time between a person being arrested and then standing trial may have to change to reflect societal change.

Lord Carloway – who once sparked controversy after recommending the abolition of the safeguard of corroboration – also quoted former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld in his speech. He told the audience that there were “known unknowns” involving the Scottish legal system at this point in time.

He added: “There has been concern expressed about the extension of time limits – not for the Crown bringing cases into court at a first diet or preliminary hearing, but thereafter for the court to allocate the case for trial within the current programing constraints.

“The issue for the future will be whether, in the era of statutory disclosure, scientific analysis of text and e-mail messaging, the narrow window allowed by statute for the commencement of a trial is sustainable in accord with modern principles of fairness or justice.”

The 61-year-old judge made the remarks during his installation as Lord President of Scotland’s most important civil court. He was also appointed Lord Justice General of the High Court of Justiciary moments afterwards. Falkirk-born Lord Carloway was appointed by the Queen last month. He replaces Lord Gill who retired last year.

During a short ceremony, Lord Carloway took an oath of office before his brother and sister judges. He then made a speech about the challenges facing the legal system.

He said: “There will be continued work to increase accessibility to the courts including the Court of Session.

He also made reference to a recent audit which concluded not enough is being done to address the costs of minor prosecutions and the time taken for courts to hear them.

He added: “The recent Audit Scotland report on summary prosecutions threw up some interesting statistics including levels of churn and the substantial costs of the late resolution of cases. These will all be addressed.”

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