New legal year sees launch of new courts

Landmark reforms to the Scottish legal system come into effect today, with the creation of a new appellate court and the establishment of a specialist personal injury court.

In a speech to mark the opening of the new legal year, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway outlined some of the key changes, which implement the recommendations made by Lord Gill's Scottish Civil Courts Review.

These include the creation today of the new Sheriff Appeal Court, at first with jurisdiction in summary criminal cases including bail appeals and with jurisdiction in civil cases from next year; and also with effect from today, the launch of an all-Scotland jurisdiction Sheriff Personal Injury Court at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, with the ability to hold civil jury trials.

The President of the Sheriff Appeal Court, Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC, described it as an "honour and privilege" to preside over the new court, supported by colleagues of "great experience and wisdom".

Sheriff Principal Stephen said: "The Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 brought into law the principal recommendations of the Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review (2009) led by Lord Gill. During Lord Gill's tenure as Lord President these reforms became reality. The court has been established with quite astonishing rapidity – from the report to law in five years and established within a further year.

"A new court is an historic event in any nation's system of justice. Today is a landmark occasion not only for the Sheriff Appeal Court but for the other civil court reforms which are designed to serve the needs of a modern Scotland."

Other measures introduced today include an extension to the exclusive competence of all sheriff courts to actions with a value of up to £100,000; the introduction of a three-month time limit and a requirement for permission in judicial reviews; and a requirement for permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.