Advance of the courts
There is momentum behind civil procedure reform, and practitioners need to be alert to have their say
Courts in different jurisdictions, Scotland included, are doing their best to catch up with the pace of change in the profession. Whether or not one agrees with all the proposals, there is no doubt that under Lord Carloway, determined efforts are being made to shake off the image of past centuries and deliver procedures, both criminal and civil, that match public expectations of our present age.
A comprehensive rewrite project for the civil procedure rules, producing parallel codes for the Court of Session and sheriff ordinary procedure, headed by statements of principle and purpose to which courts should have due regard, has reached the stage of an initial report with over-arching proposals. Open meetings at sheriff courts in the coming weeks (click here for news item) will provide opportunity for information and feedback; and Lord Carloway himself is speaking, and taking questions, at the Society's September conference.
The undertaking is enormous, but the will is there, there is momentum for change and those with an interest need to keep abreast of what is happening.
Meanwhile Lord Neuberger, President of the UK Supreme Court, has given an address in which, as well as castigating the legal aid reforms in England & Wales since 1999, he promotes online dispute resolution for low value cases. Even if it leads to “more imperfect justice” than traditional systems, he argues, a “quick and dirty” provision is “better than no justice or absurdly over-priced justice”.
With enabling legislation imminent, we should not be surprised if pressure builds to make similar provision for Scotland.
While mentioning the Supreme Court, we should thank the four Justices who gave a very real insight on the working of the court in their panel session at the Society's offices last month, during their Edinburgh week – another way to keep the courts in tune with their public. Open responses were given to some good questions from the audience. A report is online with this issue.
Four hundred years is a long time by any standards, at least as respects recorded history. So we should not let this anniversary of our property registers, in their successive incarnations, pass without marking such a significant milestone. To gauge its span, consider that for more than half that time the ceremony of handing over earth and stone – the original sasine – remained part of the transfer of title process. Yet as Registers of Scotland enters its fifth century, it hopes in three years' time to be an entirely digital business. Let us wish it every success.