Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Court Transcripts in Scotland : Prohibitive costs & profits are hindering Scots access to justice say litigants, lawyers & consumer groups

Lord GillLord Gill’s two year investigation of Scotland’s ‘Victorian’ Civil Justice system recommended major legal reforms. NEARLY two years on from a speech to a Law Society of Scotland conference in which the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill branded Scotland’s civil justice system as “Victorian”, having structures and procedures of a century and a half ago & failing society and litigants, calls to act now & implement Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review recommendations to digitally record evidence in all court cases are being made by consumers & legal insiders after several litigants, a solicitor and a consumer group agreed that the huge costs of court transcripts and the complicated, sometimes awkward procedures needed to go through to obtain them are effectively blocking Scots access to justice.

The Scottish Court Service were asked for information on how users could obtain copies of court transcripts. A Scottish Court Service (SCS) spokesperson said: "There is no published list of costs for court transcriptions. In many instances transcriptions are requested by the court and the costs are met by the SCS. Costs will vary according to the length and complexity of each transcription. There are also instances when an individual may seek a transcription. The procedure to follow in criminal cases is provided by statute in section 94 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. In these instances the applicant is liable for payment of the transcription costs and an estimate of that charge will be provided before hand. Currently, the standard rate for the transcription of one hour of court proceedings is £126."

Curiously, while Scots litigants appear to be having a harder time obtaining what are generally expensive transcripts of court hearings, which leading Scots QC Donald Findlay once described as “Bloody Awful” in terms of their quality in a Scotsman newspaper article, and which have been condemned in other circles as being incomplete, inconsistent and even omitting key evidence or rulings, court users in England & Wales apparently have an easier set of well publicised online procedures to follow for obtaining the same kinds of transcripts of court proceedings.

EX107_INFO_0709 Transcript costsNot in Scotland : Court users in England & Wales can download a form (pictured) with costs & guidance on how to apply for court transcripts. While the Scottish Court Service currently do not publish costs for court transcriptions, court users in England & Wales need only visit the HMCS website to find the necessary forms and guidance on how to apply for court transcripts. These forms, which are of little use to Scots court users although readers may wish to download them to compare the services offered in the English courts to those of Scotland, can be found at the following links : EX107 Info (Guidance, transcription panel list and prices) & EX107 Tape Transcription Request

While most people generally assume recordings or transcripts of courtroom testimony are easy to come by, applying to the court for these highly prized verbatim accounts of courtroom activity is a far from clear exercise in Scotland, a fact confirmed by a litigant who spoke to Diary of Injustice yesterday, who produced letters confirming his legal team had informed him they were facing problems in acquiring transcripts of court proceedings in a long running action, where claims & counter claims disputing the accuracy of testimony & court interlocutors have arisen in an action which connects back to the legal profession itself.

In this digital age, it appears goings-on in the courts, particularly the Scottish courts have been left far behind in terms of the ability of the courts system to accurately and perhaps as importantly, within a sensible cost, record and make available access to transcripts to litigants, whether they be represented or unrepresented, a matter which was investigated by Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill during his two year study of the civil justice system.

Lord Gill recommended significant upgrades to the information technology although with the pace of change & reform in the Scots justice system being itself, “Victorian” it will come as no surprise Lord Gill’s recommendations have as yet, not been acted upon.

Lord Gill noted in Chapter 6 of his Civil Courts Review : “Currently where evidence is recorded in civil cases this is done manually by a shorthand writer. In our view it would be more efficient to record digitally all evidence in civil cases, as happens in criminal cases. The cost of this should be borne by the SCS. The availability of digital recording facilities in all courtrooms would contribute to more flexible usage of accommodation. We understand, however, that to equip a court fully for digital recording could cost up to £15,000. That may be prohibitive in smaller courts. Mobile facilities could be made available in those courts when required. If parties required a transcript of the evidence a charge would be made for this service. In many instances a recording of the evidence would be all that would be required.”

Lord Gill later concluded in his recommendations on the increased use of information technology, specifically on the recording of evidence that “All evidence in civil cases, apart from those under the simplified procedure should be recorded digitally.”

A party litigant who recently approached Diary of Injustice over the matter of the huge costs of court transcripts revealed he is facing a staggering bill for nearly nine thousand pounds to obtain transcripts of court hearings, a bill he cannot afford to pay. The litigant is not wealthy, has not been able to obtain legal representation, and does not have access to legal aid funding.

After studying the litigant’s case and letters exchanged with the pursuers, which appear to detail several differing views on what transpired in court, it does appear the litigant’s access to justice is being obstructed by the exorbitant costs of obtaining courtroom transcripts, where a cheap digital recorder purchased for a few pounds and used under supervision of the court, would have provided the litigant a verbatim record of actual events in court to assist the progress of his case. In my view, the litigant’s access to justice has been denied by the costs of the transcripts.

Another court user who has also encountered difficulties in obtaining transcripts commented : “One thing is certain, digital recording is ubiquitous and software transferring cassette recordings and converting these simultaneously into digital files has long been available. Simply put there should be no need for any cost to parties, far less denying them access to recordings of evidence in their own case.”

A solicitor who spoke to Diary of Injustice on the issue said he was aware of Lord Gill’s recommendations to digitally record all proceedings & evidence in civil cases. However he feared the judge’s recommendations would take ‘some time’ to be implemented or arrangements put in place where litigants could request a copy ‘without having to pay through the nose’ due to a general reluctance by the courts system to embrace new technology.

He said : “Lord Gill is certainly on the right track with his review, however the technology to digitally record for lengthy periods without causing undue fuss or diversion to the court process is now available to all at a considerably reduced cost than the services provided by those who transcribe the current system of recordings used in Scottish courts. With regard to civil actions such as damages claims, small claims etc, I personally believe party litigants should be able to take their own digital recorder into court and use it, depending of course on the circumstances & nature of the case.”

An official with one of Scotland’s consumer organisations speaking on the matter said he was aware of the difficulties & costs incurred by court users who sought copies of courtroom transcripts.

He said : “The current system of providing transcripts of court proceedings in Scotland to party litigants is unclear, complicated & costly to the point of discouragement. Such a set of circumstances has a negative impact on consumers access to justice. There must be a fairer & cheaper way of making transcripts available in cases especially where party litigants who are unrepresented in court because they cannot afford legal representation have a genuine need to obtain them. I would therefore urge the Scottish Government to deliver on Lord Gill’s recommendations in this area.”

BACKGROUND

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.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are spot on about this one Peter - transcripts in courts are a racket - absolutely nothing to do with justice at all only money.

Keep up the good work !

Anonymous 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".

It is failing the litigant and it is failing society. Good morning Lord Gill, I agree but you do not go far enough. Victims of your profession hit a brick wall, I am one of them and the courts are no go areas for lawyers victims. The Law Society is tyrannical, it dominates everything legal and is anticlient. It needs abolished, independent regulation set up (like Peters Blog) and Yelland and his cronies jailed for human rights abuses.

All you Scottish people, protect your children from this absolutist Law Society and the MSP's who go on their knees to keep us all trapped by legal totalitarianism. An outrage to justice.

Anonymous said...

Happy to see we all agree on something and kudos to you for raising the issue to a higher profile.

Anonymous said...

Lord Gill do you think the Lockerbie bomber would have been freed if one hundred Law Society members had been passengers?

Anonymous said...

Not just audio recording,there should also be cameras put in the courts just like Parliament does.
Lets face it we pay for it anyway and from what I've read on this blog the whole justice system is more of a business racket than an actual place for anyone to obtain justice.

Anonymous said...

Scottish justice shamed again by the English!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

You are spot on about this one Peter - transcripts in courts are a racket - absolutely nothing to do with justice at all only money.

Keep up the good work !

18 January 2011 11:32

TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU

Anonymous said...

No wonder they dont want to publish the costs in Scotland if people are having to fork out thousands for garbled scripts of courtroom waffle.
Anyway this is supposed to be a democracy with a justice system right ? so make them publish it or shame them into doing something and get those charges reduced pronto Lords Hamilton,Gill and colleagues.

Anonymous said...

The meaning of justice is distorted by the profession who purport to uphold it. This is why trust in lawyers is being eroded.

Anonymous said...

I agree the procedures of applying for court transcripts in Scotland are difficult to say the least.Cost is certainly a factor which will end up putting many litigants off and yes as you also argue will impact on their access to justice.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Not just audio recording,there should also be cameras put in the courts just like Parliament does.
Lets face it we pay for it anyway and from what I've read on this blog the whole justice system is more of a business racket than an actual place for anyone to obtain justice.

18 January 2011 12:07

YES!

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ with the SCS spokesperson.
I know someone who was refused transcripts of their own case (a negligence action against an Edinburgh solicitor).
The refusal came about after the solicitor's legal team objected.
The case is ongoing.

Anonymous said...

Self regulation is the reason for this legal mess. Any group that police themselves will always be corrupt. That is why they want to keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

Given the disgraceful way the courts perform in Scotland I wouldnt trust anyone to transcribe what really happened in a court and it comes as NO surprise to me to hear they miss things out at their convenience

Anonymous said...

People do not understand how dangerous these lawyers are. Their power to ruin lives is underpinned by self regulation. I wonder if they can stop peoples access to financial services, car insurance, employment. Do they control the police? Can they order a clients murder and order the police to destroy evidence which would result in a conviction? Nothing they would do would shock me, I believe they are very dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Good Idea I think I'll ask for a transcript and see what happens

Anonymous said...

Self regulation means access to justice for ruined clients is sacrificed to protect the bastard who ruined the client in the first place.

This is Law Society of Scotland justice. If Yelland, Mill, MacAskill, Pritchard lost their inheritance and it was covered up they would want to murder their lawyer. They do not care because they dish it out, instead of suffering the consequences of crooked lawyers.

Anonymous said...

The head of the civil service has refused to allow the official inquiry into the Iraq War to publish notes sent by Tony Blair to former US president George Bush.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell denied requests for exchanges between the former prime minister and Mr Bush about Iraq to be declassified and released.

Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said: "The inquiry is disappointed that the Cabinet Secretary was not willing to accede to its request.
==================================
Another Lawyer with blood on his hands protected by a coverup.

Anonymous said...

THIS LORD GILL IS WHAT SELF REGULATORS GET AWAY WITH.

DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD BE PROSECUTED FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES?

THE LAWYER IN THIS CASE BOAST HE SPECIALIZES IN HUMAN RIGHTS.

A young woman injured due to prolonged standing and stenciling at a Hamilton Bakers.

Her lawyer, all doctors, her GP for over thirty years covered up what happened to her.

Her lawyer (well known in Glasgow) got three years legal aid money, and we found out later the all lawyers and doctors were insured by the same company as her employer.

So the doctors and lawyers insurers would have been paying her damages.

She has not worked for years due to these ruthless criminals.

Occupational injury where legally privileged criminal doctors cover everything up encourage employers to injure others.

The legal system is ruining peoples lives and one day they will mess with the wrong person.

Her GP, made out to the court she had been seeing a psychiatrist for over twenty years, a lie and put a straight line through the box on the benefits agency form which asked if there were any psychiatric problems.

She does not have psychiatric problems.

So at least he told the benefits agency the truth.

Simple strategy, stop her money from the benefits agency by stating there is nothing wrong with her (she had no money for 5 months until her employer terminated her contract) her GP sent her back to work for the third time her employer would not let her into work, the GP refused to give her another medical certificate and the Glasgow lawyer did not help her because his insurers would have been paying her damages, a total nightmare.

The employer, lawyer and GP cut off her money to starve her into submission.

This is the reality of the self regulators.

I beg every member of the public reading this please do not get injured at work, all of the lawyers, doctors, sheriffs are working for the insurers you are suing.

What did Motherwell primary care do to him, nothing.

The Law Society refused to investigate the lawyer.

Yes these professions have horrendous power, they are nothing short of evil incarnate, do not try to sue your employer, you will lose, that is a promise.

People are genuinely getting injured and they are covering it up.

I think the MSPs are more loyal to these criminals than the electorate.

Anonymous said...

What did Motherwell primary care do to him, nothing.

The Law Society refused to investigate the lawyer.

I BELIEVE LORD GILL YOUR PROFESSION CAN GET AWAY WITH MURDER, AND A DOCTOR WHO LIES IN MEDICAL RECORDS IS LEFT TO KEEP WORKING. REASON THEREFORE DICTATES,

NO PATIENTS MEDICAL RECORDS ARE SAFE FROM DISTORTION.

NO CLIENT WILL EVER BE SAFE.

YOUR CIVIL COURT REVIEW DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH. I STILL HAVE ALL OF THE DOCUMENTS IN THIS PERSONS (IMPOSSIBLE TO WIN) LITIGATION CASE. WE DEALT WITH EVIL RUTHLESS CRIMINALS WITH STETHOSCOPES AND LAW BOOKS, CRIMINALS WHO WERE PROTECTED BY MORE CRIMINALS, IT IS CALLED SELF REGULATION. NHS PRIMARY CARE LOCAL RESOLUTION LEFT A LYING DOCTOR STILL WORKING, AND LIKE THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE (DOES NOT KEEP RECORDS OF LAWYERS CRIMINAL RECORDS) PRIMARY CARE ARE AS BENT AS THE LAW SOCIETY.

Anonymous said...

Posting 19 January 2011 00:06 additional comment

When the GP was caught lying about his patients mental health he wanted the patient to keep quiet about it. This "will ruin me" he said. We told him he was the one with mental health problems. A shattered trust, no patient expects a GP to lie about them. Finally Peter the Medical Defence Union threatened legal action for harrassment of the GP, another lie, because they could do nothing about the GP lying about his patient. We had the documents to prove he was a liar. Nutters with stethoscopes, they think they are invincible. The have the power to heal but bring money or colleagues into the equation and Dr Jekyl becomes Mr Hyde.

Anonymous said...

Bad news for both private & corporate clients using Scotland as a place of litigation if your courts system cant even get accurate transcripts.

Anonymous said...

The NHS complaints procedure
First stage – Local Resolution

If you want to make a complaint about any aspect of NHS treatment you have received or been refused, go to the practice, hospital or trust concerned and ask for a copy of their complaints procedure. This is the same for GPs, opticians, dentists, hospitals, and any other care given by the NHS. (DO NOT BOTHER THEY TAKE NO ACTION AGAINST DOCTORS WHO LIE IN MEDICAL RECORDS).

In all cases the first stage of the procedure is to make a complaint to the practitioner concerned. (PRACTICE MAMAGERS ARE VERY HOSTILE, THEIR LOYALTY KNOWN NO LIMITS). This first stage is called Local Resolution. A large health centre may have a member of staff designated as complaints manager. A smaller practice will probably not have such a person, but all NHS practices have a procedure, and someone who has responsibility for it. In most cases the matter will be resolved at this stage.

If your complaint is about primary care services (GPs and other family health services), the complaints manager can arrange for an independent conciliator to be brought in to help resolve the complaint. A conciliator or mediator might also be available to help resolve complaints about other types of NHS services.
Second stage – referral to the Ombudsman

If your complaint is not resolved through local resolution you can refer the matter to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman or seek a judicial review.

For more information about using the Ombudsman.

IN MY EXPERIENCE THIS IS ALL MEANINGLESS WORDS. WHEN THEY READ THE LOCAL RESOLUTION LETTERS WHERE A LYING GP HAS TRIED TO CLEAR HIMSELF THEY COVER IT ALL UP.

Anonymous said...

MOST NHS CLAIMS MANAGERS ARE MEDICS OF SOME SORT, LIKE COMPLAINING TO LAWYERS ABOUT A LAWYER.

Anonymous said...

Having downloaded the forms from the English court website I dont see why the Scottish end cant manage same or is this rather vague approach to transcripts part of a policy to actively discourage people from asking in the first place?

Keep up the good work Peter and keep on at this issue as there is more to this than has been admitted so far particularly after reading Donald Findlay's comments you linked to in the Scotsman.

Anonymous said...

Good expose.
Many times I've sat through cases listening to judges and lawyers taking utter nonsense.If cameras ever do enter the courtroom I think people will realise some of Scotland's "top qc's" are little more than playground bullies with little upstairs and not worth the money their court performances currently command.

A few of them also lead very seedy double lives,although they probably think we know nothing about it.We do.

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for your comments on this article.

I most certainly agree cameras should be allowed into our courts .. for one thing their use should bring a lot more accountability to those who represent our legal interests, while also exposing those who use & twist the law to defeat the aims of, or the individual's access to justice.

I also agree the Scottish Courts Service should publish the same type of forms for transcript requests on their website, and make procedures for obtaining transcripts much clearer.

Attention must also be given to the huge costs of transcripts which itself is an obstruction to justice for many who end up in court representing themselves because they cannot afford a solicitor.

Again, we all know what needs reforming ... Lord Gill has said so himself in his Civil Courts Review, Consumer Focus Scotland and the Scottish Consumer Council before it have said the same, Which? and many other consumer organisations have agreed ...

We dont need permission from the legal profession to do it, so please reform civil justice for all Scots, now, not later.