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Scottish Government court reform bill consultation launched

Patrick McGuire, Partner A Scottish Government consultation on court reform has today (Wednesday) been launched by Justice Minister Kenny McAskill MSP. The long awaited proposals are expected to pave the way for the biggest overhaul of Scottish courts for a generation.

Commenting on the proposals within the consultation Thompsons Partner Patrick McGuire said: “Ensuring the smooth and efficient running of the court system is what any responsible Government should be looking to do but the overarching purpose of any review and reform must but be access to justice and not bean counting.  The consultation does raise serious questions over the rights the Scottish public will have to civil justice in the future.”

The move follows a Scottish Civil Court Review by Lord Gill, now Scotland’s most senior judge, which was published in 2009. In his review Lord Gill made recommendations for civil courts to be able to deal with cases more efficiently and to be more responsive to the public’s needs.

Thompsons Partner Patrick McGuire added: “Civil justice is not a commodity it’s a basic human right just like health and education. Some of the proposals raise serious concerns that this is just the slippery slope to diminishing the rights of victims of accidents, injury and disease as part of a misguided cost cutting exercise. What's next?  Will G4S be invited to tender to run civil justice in certain courts?"

Among the recommendations published is a transfer of jurisdiction from the Court of Session to sheriff courts which means cases up to a value of £150,000 could now be heard in sheriff courts rather than the more specialised Court of Session. The consultation also includes measures for the creation of the UK’s first national personal injury court.

Patrick McGuire said: “On one level, the personal injury court could have a positive impact and I would welcome this if it delivers at least the same level of justice to which victims of accident, injury and disease currently have the right to in Scotland, which is to say the same level of justice as the Court of Session does provide.

“At the time of the Gill review Thompsons, along with trade unions and victims’ campaign groups through rigorous lobbying made compelling arguments for the rights of victims of personal injury.

“At the very least a personal injury court must provide victims with access to specialist judges, specialist procedures, jury trials and the right to benefit from advocacy and QCs. "It must also be open to victims of all accidents, injuries and disease irrespective of the value of their claim.  There should be no scope to discriminate against victims in terms of access to justice on the basis of the level of their claim.  Every victim of accidents, injury and disease deserve the same high standard of justice.

We will settle for no less than this and will be making clear recommendation to the Scottish Government based on this as a minimum requirement.”  The consultation will run for three months and closes in May 2013. 


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