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Lord President permits laptops; court tightens personal injury practice

21 October 2014

New guidance relaxing the use of portable computers in court has been issued by the Lord President.

The Court of Session has also issued a further practice note regulating procedure in personal injury actions.

At present a solicitor must apply to the presiding judge for permission before using a device such as a laptop or tablet in court, but in guidance addressed to judicial office holders, the Lord President, Lord Gill, states that in future such devices may be used "provided they are used only for the purposes of the proceedings. Their use will remain subject to the discretion of the presiding judge, who may withdraw the privilege at any time".

The review of the current position was prompted after the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association made representations to Lord Gill, on hearing reports from members that the use of electronic devices in some courts was being restricted, to the particular detriment of young lawyers who use such devices more frequently and sometimes resulting in delays to cases. 

Current SYLA President Emma Boffey commented: “The SYLA supports the modernisation of the court system through increased adoption of IT, including the use of electronic devices by agents. We believe it results in benefits for court practitioners, the court itself, and our clients. We are glad that the position has now been clarified, and would like to take this opportunity to thank the Lord President and the ICT Committee of the Judicial Council for Scotland for taking this review forward.” 

The practice note (no 2 of 2014) replaces Practice Note no 1 of 2013 (but not no 2 of 2003). It covers both ordinary personal injury actions under chapter 43 of the Court of Session Rules, and medical negligence and other complex actions following the case management procedure in chapter 42A. Among the matters dealt with are applications for sist or to vary the timetable under rule 43.8; statements of claim, where it insists on figures rather than entries such as "tbc"; pre-trial meetings, and what to do if a party appears not to have complied with the spirit of rule 43.10; blanket denials and skeletal defences. 

In relation to chapter 42A the practice note covers initial case management; witness statements; matters to be dealt with prior to a proof being fixed; and further pre-proof case management.

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