Solicitor Advocate Patrick McGuire, Partner at Thompsons Solicitors took the opportunity of a conference organised by Holyrood Magazine to criticise the £150,000 entry level for cases to be heard in the Court of Session, which Lord Gill proposes in his review of Scotland’s civil justice system.
Mr McGuire told the ‘Beyond the Gill Review’ conference that using the criterion of cash rather than complexity could lead to the country’s top judges spending their time on cases which were ‘mundane in complexity and puerile in terms of legal importance’.
Mr McGuire said: "What is effectively being proposed is that the right of any Scottish citizen to take his case to the Court of Session as long as it is over £5,000 in value will be taken away.
“The wish to make Scotland's courts attractive to big business and promote the Scottish jurisdiction as a centre of excellence for commercial litigation is at the expense of existing rights of access.
"I don't see it as an improvement that justice will be based on turnover. For example if Tesco has a row with one of its suppliers about a consignment of butter that went off it is likely always to beat the £150,000 threshold, but should our top judges be spending their time on a matter that will be mundane in complexity and puerile in terms of legal importance."
McGuire listed three significant Court of Session cases that would undershoot the £150,000 threshold that he held out to be examples of the existing system working better than its proposed replacement.
They were: the mesothelioma case of Smith; the damages case raised by Valentine following the death of her son, Robert Thomson, in Basra; and the test case raised by Skinner, a paramedic, against Scottish Ambulance Service on the supply of retractable needles to avoid needle-stick injury.
"The value of the case to Skinner was £7,000 but it will have changed the terms of employees' rights to safe working for a generation. Looking back in 20 years time will we be proud that the legacy of the Gill review was to make our courts fit for big business at the expense of the ordinary citizen?
“I personally have no doubt that the answer to that question is a resounding ‘no’.”