Judge hits out at 'Victorian' Scots courts
Published Date: 09 May 2009
By John Forsyth and Christopher Mackie
ONE of Scotland's most senior judges has launched a savage attack on the country's "Victorian" civil courts – and said reform is vital to tackle diminishing respect for Scots law.
Lord Gill, the lord justice clerk, said the system was outdated, expensive, unpredictable and inefficient – and that it was failing society and putting economic development at risk.Without dramatic reforms, the reputation of Scots law .
"Its delays are notorious. Its costs deter litigants whose claims may be well founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct, rather than facilitate the achievement of justice."One of the greatest inhibitors to access in the civil courts is not just the cost to businesses or individuals pursuing litigation, but also what they perceive to be the personal cost of undertaking an action. This is particularly an issue in areas of law such as family matters – especially those that involve children – and complex personal injury cases.
Delay in civil litigation is often caused by the volume and urgency of criminal case work that forces judges to interrupt or defer long-scheduled court days. Lord Gill reported a "surprising depth of feeling" among litigants caused by the long gap in issuing judgments once the case had concluded.He said: "Unless there is major reform and soon, individual litigants will be prevented from securing their rights, commercial litigants will continue to look elsewhere for a forum for their claims, public confidence in the judicial system will be further eroded, Scotland's economic development will be hindered and Scots law will atrophy as an independent legal system."Huge changes to be proposed in his review are likely to include a focus on an increased and better use of IT. He claimed that Scotland was "far behind many other jurisdictions" in this area.