Page last updated at 14:56 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:56 UK

Radical civil law reform proposed

Lord Gill
Lord Gill's recommendations will go to ministers

Wide-ranging changes to the Scottish civil justice system have been proposed in a major review.

Lord Gill, Scotland's second most senior judge, has been carrying out the study for the past two years.

His report has recommended a "major transfer of jurisdiction" from the country's top civil court - the Court of Session - to the sheriff court.

Civil law covers a huge range of cases and has been largely unchanged since Victorian times.

Under Lord Gill's proposals, which will now go to ministers, cases worth up to £150,000 would have to be dealt with at sheriff court level, freeing up the Court of Session to deal solely with the biggest cases.

The systems delays are notorious and in some cases scandalous
Lord Gill

Lord Gill also recommended that all minor civil litigation should be transferred to a "third judicial level" within the sheriff court, to be administered by a new class of judicial officers known as district judges.

And he further suggested a specialist personal injury court should be set up, based at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, and with jurisdiction throughout Scotland.

Lord Gill was appointed in early 2007 by the then Scottish Executive to conduct the review.

He announced his proposals alongside a raft of other suggested measures aimed at tackling "fundamental flaws" in the country's civil justice system and addressing the "scandalous" delays which can arise.

'Wholly unsuited'

Introducing his findings, he said the study showed that civil justice as it stands in Scotland is "failing".

He said: "It is failing to deliver justice to the citizen expeditiously, economically or efficiently.

"Our structures and procedures are wholly unsuited to modern conditions.

"They inflict needless costs on the public purse, on the Scottish Legal Aid Board and on individual litigants at every level. The systems delays are notorious and in some cases scandalous."

The proposals were welcomed by the Law Society of Scotland, which said they would help ensure that a "level playing field, predictable outcomes and access to legal advice" were at the heart of civil justice.



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