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Civil courts need reform, says Justice Secretary

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The latest civil justice statistics, which have been published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, underline the need for court reform in Scotland, says Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

They show that while the number of civil cases being heard at sheriff court level has been declining – down 10% between 2011-12 and 2012-13, a 43% drop since 2008-09, the number of civil cases being heard at the Court of Session has remained steady. Personal injury cases accounted for 79% of cases raised in the General Department of Court of Session.

The Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, which implements many of the recommendations of Lord Gill’s Scottish Civil Courts Review, aims to speed up Scotland’s courts by ensuring that cases are heard at the appropriate level – freeing up the Court of Session to deal with the most challenging civil disputes. To support this, the threshold under which civil cases must be raised in the sheriff court is to be increased from £5,000 to £150,000.

The Bill also includes proposals to create a new national personal injury sheriff court, where such cases can be heard by specialist sheriffs, instead of so many ending up in the Court of Session, resulting in higher costs and potential delays for all involved.

“At present too many cases, particularly lower value personal injury cases, are being raised in the Court of Session – clogging up the system and resulting in higher costs and delays for the parties involved,” said Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill. "Through our court reforms we will ensure such cases can be heard at a new, national specialist personal injury court, where they can be dealt with more swiftly at a lower cost.

“This will have little impact on the sheriff courts themselves – representing only a 3% transfer of civil cases – but will have a considerable impact on the Court of Session, enabling it to focus on more complex cases,” he added.

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