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Civil Justice Council a "significant practical step" in reforms: Gill

26 September 2013

The launch of the Scottish Civil Justice Council "marks a very significant practical step" on the journey towards civil courts reform in Scotland, the Lord President said as the new body was formally launched this week.

Replacing the previous Court of Session and Sheriff Court Rules Councils, whose rule-drafting functions, it is taking on, the new Council also has a wider, role to advise and make recommendations to ministers on the development of the civil justice system, conducting consultations and commissioning research. It will be able to take into account proposals for reform when preparing draft rules.

Lord President Gill pointed to the broad membership of the SCJC, including legal practitioners, judges and consumer representatives, along with the chief executives of the Scottish Court Service and Scottish Legal Aid Board, and its "impressive" breadth and depth of experience. "The creation of the Scottish Civil Justice Council will help to support civil courts reform and thereafter ensure that the system can be kept under systematic review and remain responsive to the changing needs of modern society", he commented.

Lord Gill, who authored the 2009 report that recommended structural changes to the civil courts, added that it was "gratifying" to see the quick progress that had been made towards reform, with a Government bill due to be introduced to Holyrood shortly, following a consultation on a draft bill. The SCJC had "the not insignificant task of taking forward the many changes to court rules that will be required", and establishing it ahead of the legislation for civil courts reform "has helped to ensure that the momentum behind these reforms can be maintained".

He added that the SCJC would be involved in two other major reform projects: the recommendations of Sheriff Principal Taylor’s Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland, and the proposals in the Tribunals (Scotland) Bill, which might in due course bring consideration of the tribunal system and tribunal rules within its remit.

Already in its existence the SCJC had set up a Family Law Committee under Lord Brailsford, and a Personal Injury Committee under Lord Jones, to consider improvements to the procedures in these types of actions; set up a Rules Rewrite Working Group to develop the methodology for carrying out the rules rewrite to support civil courts reform; and begun a consultation on rules in relation to reporting restrictions, as well as setting up a website and taking on current work of the two former Rules Councils, considering several sets of new rules.

The Lord President concluded with generous thanks to those who had served on the Rules Councils and to the members and secretariat of the new body.

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