Sheriff Appeal Court

Scotland’s new Sheriff Appeal Court will now hear civil appeals from sheriff courts, after its jurisdiction in civil cases came into effect this week.

The new court, which is presided over by Appeal Sheriffs, will improve efficiency by removing this business from the Court of Session, by ensuring cases are dealt with at the appropriate level and by preventing unmeritorious claims from reaching the higher courts. 

The new civil appellate structure brings to an end the appeal from a Sheriff at first instance to a Sheriff Principal and the virtually unrestricted right of appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session. 

From now on civil appeals will be heard by a bench of three Appeal Sheriffs sitting in Edinburgh, although procedural business, routine appeals and appeals from small claims and summary causes may be dealt with by a single Appeal Sheriff in the local sheriffdom. 

Importantly, judgments of the Sheriff Appeal Court will be binding throughout Scotland, creating a consistent and coherent body of case law. 

Under the new structure, it is now necessary for a party to have the permission of either the Sheriff Appeal Court or the Inner House of the Court of Session before there can be any further appeal, bringing a degree of finality to the appellate system. 

Sheriff Principal Craig Scott QC, Vice President of the Sheriff Appeal Court, said: “The introduction of the Sheriff Appeal Court's civil jurisdiction is to be welcomed. We aim to manage and determine those civil appeals coming before the court in a manner commensurate with the issues under consideration. Efficiency and consistency of approach‎ will be high on the agenda.” 

The establishment of the Sheriff Appeal Court is part of a raft of changes to the Scottish justice system introduced by the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, which implemented the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review led by Lord Gill. 

The court was launched at the beginning of the legal year on 22 September 2015 with jurisdiction in criminal cases. The court acquired its jurisdiction and competence in civil cases on 1 January 2016. 

Under the new structure, the Sheriff Appeal Court can remit an appeal from the Sheriff to be considered by the Inner House of the Court of Session, but only if the Sheriff Appeal Court considers that the appeal raises a complex or novel point of law. 

Where an existing enactment provides for a statutory appeal from the Sheriff direct to the Inner House, that appeal is unaffected by the creation of the Sheriff Appeal Court. 

Permission to appeal from a decision of the Sheriff Appeal Court to the Inner House of the Court of Session may be granted only if the appeal would raise an important point of principle or practice or if there is some other compelling reason.

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