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Monday, November 15, 1999 Published at 16:39 GMT

UK: Scotland

Euro-ruling hits court cases

The legal system in Scotland is now feeling the pressure

Court cases are already being disrupted after the ruling which resulted in Scotland's temporary sheriffs being dismissed.

Eight trials at Livingston Sheriff Court were hit by delays on Monday as lawyers alleged earlier proceedings were invalid because of the involvement of temporary sheriffs.

Three High Court judges ruled last week that under the European Convention of Human Rights, people appearing before temporary sheriffs could not be guaranteed an independent and impartial tribunal.

All 130 temporary sheriffs were immediately dismissed amid predictions that the legal system would be hit by mayhem.

[ image: New sheriffs are to be appointed]
New sheriffs are to be appointed
The Law Society of Scotland said courts would be inundated by challenges of unfairly heard cases.

It also predicted that with fewer sheriffs to carry out the work, the legal already overburdened legal system would descend into chaos.

Scotland's Justice Minister Jim Wallace gave MSPs assurances that everything was being done to minimise disruption.

He said the executive had already taken measures to cope with the consequences of the decision, one of which was to advertise for 10 new full-time sheriffs.

The ruling by the judges, sitting at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh, was made in light of the fact that since May this year Scottish law has been subject to the European Convention of Human Rights.

This guarantees an accused person's right to a fair trial before an independent tribunal.

In the appeal court it was successfully argued that temporary sheriffs are not independent because they depend on the Lord Advocate for their appointments.

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12 Nov 99 | Scotland
Chaos warning over temporary sheriffs ruling

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