Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Civil Justice Advisory Group calls for radical reform of Scotland’s civil justice system, says people should be at the heart of Scottish civil justice

Consumer Focus Scotland logoConsumer Focus Scotland’s Civil Justice Advisory group publishes its report on civil justice reform. SCOTLAND's “Victorian” civil justice system came in for yet more criticism today as the Civil Justice Advisory Group, reconvened in January 2010 by Consumer Focus Scotland under the chairmanship of Lord Coulsfield with a remit to consider the proposals of the Scottish Civil Courts Review, led by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, published its report and called for a radical rethink on how the civil justice system in Scotland can be reformed to make it more fit for purpose & user friendly.

In today’s report the Civil Justice Advisory Group proposes that the focus should be on creating a civil justice system designed around the people who use it, addressing the various needs that users have at each stage in resolving their disputes, to ensure that these are resolved in the most effective way as early as possible.

“Ensuring effective access to appropriate and affordable dispute resolution”, the Final Report of the Civil Justice Advisory Group (pdf), published by Consumer Focus Scotland, makes a series of recommendations that include:

* The development of a ‘triage’ approach to civil justice problems, aiming to ensure that users are directed to the most appropriate pathway for the resolution of their problem.

* The creation of a web-based system bringing together information on rights, responsibilities, sources of help, and advice and options for dispute resolution.

* Funding should be made available to pilot more proactive public legal education initiatives to build legal capability amongst particular groups.

* The introduction of new court rules to encourage, but not compel, parties to seek to resolve their dispute by mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution, prior to going to court.

* A mediation scheme should be available which could be accessed before a court action is raised, as well as being available to the court.

* The need for a clear separation between civil and criminal business in the third-tier of civil jurisdiction proposed by the Gill review.

* The third-tier should operate within a simplified process, with plain English, user-friendly rules, and clear, simple forms. Efforts should also be made to ensure the culture of the third-tier is not intimidating for litigants.

* The establishment of a specialist jurisdiction to deal with housing cases.

* The Scottish Government to review the way in which family cases are dealt with, including the rules and procedures which should apply.

* National roll out of in court advice services, although these should not necessarily be based within individual courts.

The report also calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the full range of relevant interests should be given the opportunity to provide sufficient input to future civil justice reform. It will now be submitted to the Scottish Government to support its implementation of the Gill review proposals on civil justice.

Lord Coulsfield said the Group’s aim is to make the civil legal process more effective and efficient as well as easier for its users: “I hope that we have made suggestions which will contribute to the creation of a system which will encourage the resolution of disputes by agreement wherever possible, but also provide for an unintimidating and accessible and efficient court procedure where agreement cannot be reached.”

Lord Coulsfield continued : “Our intention was, through taking a broader look at the experience of people who need the help of the civil justice system, to make recommendations that will spare those who do not need to go to court from having to do so, and reduce the stress for those who do.”

Welcoming the report, Scotland’s Minister for Community Safety, Fergus Ewing MSP, said the Group is putting forward an important set of options: “Scotland’s civil justice system must be open to all who need it and has to offer support that is neither too slow nor too intimidating for users.”

Mr Ewing continued : “I would like to thank the Civil Justice Advisory Group under Lord Coulsfield for their work. They have given us a series of very helpful recommendations for future reform, which we shall now consider as part of our approach to reforming the wider civil justice system.”

The Civil Justice Advisory Group was first established in 2004 by the Scottish Consumer Council, one of Consumer Focus Scotland’s predecessor organisations. It published its report Civil Justice in Scotland: A Case for Review? (available as a PDF by clicking here) in November 2005, and four of the six recommendations of this report were incorporated in the remit of the Scottish civil courts review. The Civil Justice Advisory Group was re-established in January 2010 to consider some of the key proposals of the Scottish civil courts review.

In addition to Lord Coulsfield who chairs the Group, its membership includes representatives from the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, Scottish Court Service, Consumer Focus Scotland, Citizens’ Advice Scotland, Scottish Legal Aid Board, Scottish Association of Law Centres, Scottish Mediation Network, Scottish Committee of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, as well as Professor Alan Paterson from the University of Strathclyde.

The full report “Ensuring effective access to appropriate and affordable dispute resolution – The Final Report of the Civil Justice Advisory Group” can be downloaded HERE (pdf). A summary of the final report can be downloaded HERE (pdf).

I have previously reported on the Civil Justice Advisory Group’s consultation and its activities, HERE

As Consumer Focus have said today, people should be put first and at the heart of Scotland’s civil justice system, and no effort should be spared to ensure all Scots have access to justice, an access which comes as a right, at a reasonable cost which all can afford, and free of the obstructions of vested professional interests whose aims are more often than not to stifle or defeat the aims of justice and the individual’s access to justice out of financial motives, or protection of those who use the law as nothing more than a business model to control who among us gains access to the courts.

BACKGROUND TO CIVIL JUSTICE REFORM IN SCOTLAND

Lord Gill Lord Justice ClerkThe Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, author of the Civil Courts Review. The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference last year, reproduced in full here said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society. It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice."

Readers can find out more & download a copy of the Civil Courts Review report in pdf format, from the Scottish Courts Website at the following links :

My coverage of the Civil Courts Review from its publication to the present, and the pace of reforms to civil justice in Scotland can be found here : Civil Courts Review - The story so far.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

The day they put people first before lawyers or anything else when it comes to justice will never come - not as long as the Law Society has its way.

Good effort anyway and I'm sure you have been keeping them on their toes.

Anonymous said...

Cant see the SNP doing much of this.They have the perfect excuse "WE ARE IN A RECESSION" also coupled with the fact half the Cabinet are lawyers and might need their old jobs when booted out in May!

Giving anyone access to justice will come a poor second to retaining their positions of power..

Anonymous said...

Good for Consumer Focus but I'm sure the lawyers will want to take the whole thing over as soon as they are scrapped by the torags

Remember it all comes down to money and if people dont have it they dont get into or out of ourt

Anonymous said...

Good to see you spreading the word on civil justice reform although I cant help wondering if most of Scotland will end up needing the services of a lawyer to understand how to use all these newfangled ideas

Anonymous said...

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/02/09110006/0

Read it & weep - Much as expected the SNP are nothing more than a talking shop on civil justice reform.

Anonymous said...

Anything to stop the lawyers gravy train against clients and legal aid I'm in favor of.

Also consider this - there are people all over the world revolting against their own governments because they dont have any of the justice rights you are writing about.

Isnt it about time people in Britain started protesting on the streets about their lack of justice and how these evil law societys hold you all hostage

Anonymous said...

This one sounds like she would make a fine member of the Law Society of Scotland.

My verdict : 5 years and they should investigate right back to see how many other times she has done it (just like greedy lawyer I bet)

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2011/01/20/nurse-stole-from-stroke-victim-so-she-could-buy-booze-86908-22861884/

Nurse stole from stroke victim so she could buy booze

Jan 20 2011

A NURSE stole cash from a 76-year-old stroke victim she was supposed to be looking after to fund her secret alcohol problem.

Callous Ann McIntyre, 43, was caught red-handed when the pensioner’s suspicious family helped police to set up a sting at her home in Scone, Perthshire.

Detectives planted specially marked notes in the pensioner’s purse after several items went missing from her house.

McIntyre had sentence deferred for a month at Perth Sheriff Court yesterday for reports on her booze problem.

Sheriff Robert McCreadie told her: “This is something a bit more than just stealing money. It is a gross breach of trust. It is a shameful episode.”

Anonymous said...

Dream on Civil Justice Group.The end of the world will happen quicker than anyone being put before lawyers in banana republic Scotland because lawyers run the government

Anonymous said...

"* The creation of a web-based system bringing together information on rights, responsibilities, sources of help, and advice and options for dispute resolution."

Yet as your previous article to this demonstrates the Scottish courts wont even allow the same procedures for court transcripts which the English have on their own courts website.

I think we have a long LONG way to go before any of this becomes reality so you better keep promoting the civil justice reform issue.

Anonymous said...

Spot the missing Justice Secretary MacAskill.
Has no one bothered yet to ask why MacAskill is being kept out of the limelight ?
Every time there's a justice issue they wheel out Fergus Ewing unless its so high profile MacAskill just has to be seen on the telly or is his absence because he disagrees with justice reform or anything which might impinge on his precious Law Society colleagues ability to screw us all to death for fees ?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Dream on Civil Justice Group.The end of the world will happen quicker than anyone being put before lawyers in banana republic Scotland because lawyers run the government.
==================================
SADLY YOU ARE CORRECT, POLICYMAKING ALWAYS GOES THE LAW SOCIETIES WAY, BUT HANG ON, CLIENTS CAN POST THEIR EXPERIENCES, (E BAY FEEDBACK WORKS WITH BUYERS AND SELLERS) AN EBAY TYPE SYSTEM WILL BYPASS THE LAW SOCIETY, SUDDENLY THE CIVIL JUSTICE GROUP HAVE A POWERFUL MEDIUM AT THEIR DISPOSAL, (WEBSITES).

TARGET POTENTIAL CLIENTS NOT THE GOVERNMENT, THAT IS THE WAY TO GO.

GOOGLE "CROOKED LAWYERS" AND SEE SOME.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear some more from Lord Gill asap

Anonymous said...

Unconvincing statement from Fergus Ewing.

Was he gritting his teeth at the thought of his lawyer friends losing out financially if people wise up to doing their own thing in court instead of hiring some corrupt offal with an LLB ?

Anonymous said...

I downloaded the Civil Justice Advisory Group report.Very interesting although I feel the momentum still lies with Lord Gill who could do with reminding the politicians its high time civil justice was made available for all instead of ONLY through profiteering lawyers.

I saw someone posted a link to some report by the Scottish Government earlier in the comments although I think that was written before Salmond & co took over in 2007.Anyway my point is no matter who is in power I doubt the pace of reform would be any faster than it is now even if painfully slow.Remember all these msps are wined & dined by lawyers or the Law Society so dont expect too much change unless we all begin to make a fuss about it.

Also thanks for keeping us informed and not treating your readers like dummies unlike most smart arsed lawyers who keep writing about how f*cking great they are when really they are just a bunch of leeches out to grow rich from people's misfortunes or fall outs.

Carry on !

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments & emails on this article.

I realise Civil Justice reform is perhaps not the easiest subject for all, however it is an issue all of us should take an interest in, as we all end up having to use legal services at some point in our lives.

To ensure those legal services are available to all, to ensure all of us have access to justice, I feel it is vital people take the time to study these reforms, and where possible make their own feelings known so the Government of the day dont fall back on promises to reform ... and come up with the usual excuses of poor finances or "it will take time etc ...".

It doesnt take time to reform a law when the legal profession make a request for legislation .. such as when the Scottish Parliament went into fast mode to pass the Council of the Law Society of Scotland Act 2003 .. which was specifically at the behest & benefit of the Law Society .. so civil justice reform, which is to benefit all Scots, and I mean all Scots, should be done in a similar amount of time ... weeks, months, a year at the most ... its not rocket science, we all know what requires to be reformed.Reform it.

Anonymous said...

Good one Peter.
I agree people need to take more interest in civil justice however trying to motivate will be an uphill struggle especially in a country such as Scotland

Anonymous said...

If George Galloway attacked the Law Society on self regulation I would vote for him.

Anonymous said...

Like Hitler MacAskill retreats to his bunker when civil law reforms and self regulation are on the agenda.

He is not a murderer, and I am not trying to suggest he is. Go elsewhere Kenny, The Law Society is where you belong.