News In Focus
Simple procedure, Taylor reforms and Brexit top SCJC work list
Brexit, the Simple Procedure Rules review and the civil litigation funding and expenses reforms were the major focus of the Scottish Civil Justice Council's work last year, and remain among its high priorities in the coming year, according to the Council's newly published annual report for 2018-19.
Civil courts reform continues to be “the major focus of the Council's work”, in particular the review of the core Simple Procedure Rules in light of user experience. Amendments to the core rules are planned to be in place by this autumn, and implementation of the special claims rules will follow.
Meanwhile work on phase 2 of the Rules Rewrite Project has involved the development of a detailed model for ordinary procedure in the Court of Session and sheriff court. This will take the form of a “procedural narrative”, a step-by-step guide setting out how the Council envisages an ordinary action proceeding through court. However work has been paused until January 2020, as staffing resource has had to be directed to other priority areas.
Another high priority is implementing the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Act 2018. Draft rules relating to qualified one-way costs shifting are being developed, as are draft rules relating to awards of expenses against legal representatives. Development of rules for group proceedings will be “a significant work project going forward”.
However Brexit could take precedence over all these: “If there is a short ‘no deal’ period within which to put through critical Brexit-related amendments, this work will require to be given a very high priority”, the report states. “A comprehensive scoping exercise has been carried out to identify any urgent areas of work.”
The SCJC has also earmarked the 8% judicial rate of interest for early action, recognising the concerns that it is “unfair to consumers”, though it was unable to progress the subject last year due to other priorities.
It further achieved the passing of a total of 14 sets of draft rules to implement new legislation or policy initiatives.
Other topics listed as high priorities for 2019-20 are case management in sheriff court family law actions, and certain personal injuries actions in the Court of Session, part 11 orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act, a review of the Inner House rules, and the extension of simplified divorce.
Writing in the foreword, Lord President Carloway, who chairs the Council, comments: “Major reforms, such as the review of judicial review procedure, the creation of a Sheriff Appeal Court, and the creation of an All-Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court have brought with them the efficiencies we had hoped for. The core Simple Procedure Rules are benefiting from increased online functionality. Despite the inevitable limitations of austerity, the Council is steadily progressing key initiatives.”
He adds: “I remain grateful for the generous support of all those who support the Council, and the Council’s committees and specialist working groups. That support has been critical to the Council’s work.”
Click here to view the report.