Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Civil Courts Review TWO YEARS ON : “Victorian” flaws in Scots legal system ‘may last for decades’ as lawyers vested interests stifle justice reforms

Lord GillLord Gill’s Civil Courts Review published in 2009 recommended significant reforms to Scots justice system yet little has changed in two years. TWO YEARS ON from the CIVIL COURTS REVIEW undertaken by Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill in February 2007 which culminated in his report published in September 2009 recommending significant wide ranging reforms to Scotland’s antiquated civil justice system, Scots are finding access to civil justice & access to courts has, in reality, changed little despite much talk at the Scottish Parliament on the report’s reforms and several amateur attempts by the Scottish Government to legislate wider access to justice, all of which have been watered down in the face of almost warlike hostility from lawyers worried their profit margins would sink as people chose other forms of getting to court.

Sadly, the stinging criticisms of Lord Gill, who himself branded Scotland’s civil justice system as “Victorian”, failing to deliver efficiency of justice or Scots accessibility of justice appear to have been lost in the mists of time with little progress on the Lord Justice Clerk’s proposals to rectify the justice system’s ills, yet those consumers in Scotland who face the torture of using Scotland’s expensive, seemingly endemically dishonest legal profession to get to court, would rather the proposed reforms be speeded up than having review after review, and then as is now the case, reviews of the reviews.

Last year, on the first anniversary of the Civil Courts Review, and the blaze of publicity which surrounded its publication, we saw little change, almost a few steps backwards as I reported last August 2010, here : Civil Courts Review one year on : Scotland’s out-of-reach justice system remains Victorian, untrustworthy and still controlled by vested interests

Another year has now passed, yet the only movement on Lord Gill’s proposals by the Scottish Government, was to launch another review, as I reported earlier in March, here : Scottish Government delay reforms on costs of litigation & access to justice as Minister announces 18 month 'time wasting' review by retired sheriff, announced after I reported in January 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

I reported on the ‘progress’ of the Sheriff Taylor review (the review of the review), earlier in July, here : Lawyers can talk, yet fee paying clients & court users remain shut out of Scottish Government review of the costs & funding of litigation in Scotland. A consultation was to be published on the Taylor Review website HERE although none has yet appeared.

Clearly, Civil Justice Reform and giving Scots control over their own access to justice & legal services, instead of the present arrangement where the legal establishment and lawyers control & decide which Scots have access to justice, is not a priority for the Scottish Government.

Indeed, it could well be argued the Scottish Government are delaying for as long as possible, most of the access to justice reforms because they will put power into the hands of Scots to resolve their legal issues & court issues much faster, at less cost, and with less potential for failure, than the present “Victorian” system offers us. The reason for the delays ? Well, its not too difficult to see if Scots are able to resolve their legal issues faster and cheaper, the legal profession are going to make a lot less money out of their clients.

Reminding readers once again of those words, Lord Gill, in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference last year, 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."

He continued : "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."

"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.”

“Major reform and soon”, as Lord Gill said himself, has not happened. One may rightly being to wonder if Lord Gill’s reforms are ever expected to occur while the vested interests of money makers in the legal profession have their way. September 2010 has come and nearly ended, yet, again, little has changed for those in Scotland who need a justice system fit for the 21st Century, rather than what we currently have, the “Victorian” version controlled by vested interests from the legal establishment.

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations admitted today he was ‘despondent’ about any major reforms to Scotland’s civil justice system over the next ten years. He said : “There is a general feeling the civil courts review is dead & buried along with any chance to launch major reforms to civil justice in the next decade.I don't believe this is a priority for the current Scottish Government and I don't think it will be one for the next”

He continued : “It’s just not in the interests of those earning money out of the justice system to see a different playing field where consumers can get easier, cheaper & faster access to justice in Scotland. Lawyers keep claiming if such reforms came in, they would go out of business, however lawyers dont own the justice system, they just use it to make money. Until we get away from the idea the legal profession owns & operates the justice system and the courts as their own business, there will be little chance of constructive reform of civil justice in Scotland.”

Readers can download the Civil Courts Review report in pdf format, from the Scottish Courts Website at the following links :

Volume 1 Chapter 1 - 9 (Covers McKenzie Friends, procedures, advice etc, 2.99Mb)

Volume 2 Chapter 10 - 15 (Covers mainly the issue of Class (multi party) actions etc, 2.16Mb)

Synopsis (215Kb)

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 however the story so far is that Scots do not have control over their own access to justice, and Scotland still has a justice system which is Victorian, prejudiced, politicised, controlled by vested interests & definitely a little crooked.


Anonymous said...

Gill must be proud all that effort went to waste just because a few lawyers are worried about their year end profits.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree,cant see any real changes to a legal system that in some cases relies on acts of law from well before the Victorian era.

On the subject of Lord Gill.He hasn't said much on the CCR since.I think it's high time for a gavel rattling m'lord!

Anonymous said...

Justice bought by the highest bidder (in this case lawyers)

black eyed pea soup said...


Anonymous said...

The courts dont give a toss about the rest of us - you can see the hate chalked on some of these judges faces when you walk into a court and see them sitting there all day supposedly doing a job which requires massive wages of course.

200K or so is it from what I read on your blog and unlimited expenses just like mps.Disgrace.

Anonymous said...

So its nothing more than a Civil Courts DUD right?
reviewXreviewXreview seems just a bit of time wasting on public money probably!

Anonymous said...

I don't know,I suppose this sort of thing happens all the time but if I had written something as powerful as this civil court review and nothing happened for years I'd say something about it.Natural thing to do isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Translated into plain English this is about a judge telling the legal system it should become cheaper and more modern for everyone else to use (everyone else who pays for it through their taxes) but the problem here is the changes will affect greedy scumbag lawyers profits so it will never happen doesnt matter who is in charge.At least it will never happen as long as the Justice Minister is a fellow lawyer!

Anonymous said...

Lord Gill and Co have shown themselves pleased to allow others to continue suffering the identified abuse caused by the travesty masquerading as a Justice System - I note the obscene delay of some 16 years involved in the Motherwell College case you wrote of recently - and keep silent about the spectacular lack of consideration of their Committee's sensible - and long overdue - recommendations.

I would urge readers to write and complain to their MEPs in Brussels, the 'Edinburgh Mafia' clearly have no-one's interests at heart apart from their own.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like he's forgotten about it already..

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

A timely reminder of the fact no one gets justice or access to a court in Scotland unless a lawyer says so and lawyers only say so if they think they can make lots of money out of it.

Now compare this to some lawyers who troll round the prison system looking for convicts who believe their rights are being abused.Instant legal aid instant access to a court and all paid by us yes the same people who are barred from the court if some of the same lawyers dont like the look of your face or dont think they can milk every penny you have for their own benefit.

What kind of a justice system is this Lord Gill?

Where are OUR human rights to justice Lord Gill?

Anonymous said...

Any volunteers on a definition of 'Scottish Justice'?. Does such a thing even still exist?

I put it to you that this is in doubt; when a man can be repeatedly arrested in Scotland, charged with 17 consecutive breach of the peace offences and incarcerated over a 6 year period to the cost of £500,000.00 to the Scottish Tax Payer (not to mention the effect this has had on his wife and two kids) for hiking without clothes on (when he has already walked a far greater distance in England, without crossing any borders, without incident or offence)

Especially so, when the latest 'sheriff' calls this man selfish for costing the tax payer this money and pleading with him to put his clothes on or he will continue to be encarcerated when he is released!

This is evidence of none other than an out of date, Victorian, vindictive, punitive, elitist & hierarchical judicial system that does not represent the Scottish society we live in.

To contrast the above and to show how absurd this is, the Justice Secretary, McKaskill releases Megrahi, Scotland's worst convicted mass murderer because he felt that the Scottish people should feel more compassion for him than show compassion for the hundreds of his victims and their families!

You couldn't write it in a book!, or in the event your name was megrahi and you were going to spill the beans on the conditions of your release and the real reason the 'Pan-Am jet was 'pulled''?

Taxi for McKaskill? - Generally speaking Scottish folk don't like being lied to

Anonymous said...

Lord Gill = “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."
The core issue in this: "Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice." only touches on the actuality. If by "procedures" His Lordship means the judicial tolerance and acceptance of "absence of candour" and/or "lack of intellectual integrity" on the part of those presenting cases in Court - thereby dragging things out with arguments for which they can have no serious honest belief (but, for which unfounded obfuscation, being paid £200 an hour, they earn vastly increased fees) then he'd be correct. The rectification of that lies in the hands of the judiciary, it doesn't require primary legislation, it simply requires the Court to exercise its powers of discipline over those who've been sworn and thus allowed to practice in their Courts.