Saturday, March 24, 2012

Reform of civil justice & court costs ‘a dying duck’ : Lawyers vested interests respond to Scottish Government’s Taylor Review

Taylor Review Page Cover_Page1Taylor Review consultation will fail to address, reform Scotland’s rip-off justice system. NEARLY FOUR YEARS AGO, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill issued his Civil Courts Review, describing Scotland’s justice system as “… 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.” The well respected judge who some hope will replace Lord Hamilton as Lord President, went onto criticise the civil justice system even further, leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind of the futility of using Scotland’s civil courts, saying “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 Scottish Government’s response to Lord Gill’s two year Civil Courts Review was, more talk, and little action, and adding insult to injury, a review of Lord Gill’s review, branded the Taylor Review.

Over a year after Lord Gill had issued his highly critical findings on Scotland’s Victorian civil justice system, the Scottish Government announced their plans, with a proviso many of the ‘reforms’ would take years to implement, if ever. This was reported here : Scottish Government’s response to Civil Courts Review : Class Actions, more cases to Sheriff Courts, & faster, easier access to justice ‘over years’ and finally in 2011, the Scottish Government announced a review of Lord Gill’s review, seen by most as a time wasting exercise for vested interests, reported here : Scottish Government delay reforms on costs of litigation & access to justice as Minister announces 18 month 'time wasting' review by retired sheriff.

It took at least another six months before the Taylor Review team launched their consultation, covered by Diary of Injustice, here : Going to court is like being taken to the cleaners ? Participate in the Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland Consultation.

While the Taylor Review has yet to report on, & recommend reforms to the way justice is obtainable (usually unobtainable) in Scotland, the vested interests of the legal profession have, predictably, released their own responses to the Taylor Review, giving little prospect of any changes to the ridiculous cost of litigating in Scotland’s civil courts.

Readers can view the legal profession’s responses to the Taylor Review at the following links : Response from the Law Society of Scotland, Law Society of Scotland’s Remuneration Committee on shortfall in judicial expenses, Response from the Faculty of Advocates, Response from the Glasgow Bar Association

Not withstanding the amount of time which has passed since Lord Gill’s critique on Scotland’s costly, antiquated civil justice system, nearly a full four years which have seen costs of going to court spiral in Scotland, there is little if anything in the responses from the legal profession which may contribute to any significant falls in the costs of obtaining justice in Scotland. Lets face it, lawyers are never going to concede justice could, and should become cheaper, simply because it affects their profits, and of course, the wider influence of the legal profession on public & political life in Scotland. Scots therefore, should not expect easier or cheaper access to justice anytime soon.


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."

The Scottish Government’s full response to Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review can be viewed online here : Scottish Government Response to the Report and Recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review or can be downloaded directly, here : Scottish Government Civil Courts Review response (pdf)

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)

Readers may also wish to gauge how Holyrood and the Scottish Government are treating the Civil Courts Review, from a report covering the last Holyrood debate on the subject, along with video footage, here : Holyrood debate reveals civil justice reforms & McKenzie Friends may be a long way off as Scottish Ministers stumble over Lord Gill review proposals

Diary of Injustice’ coverage of the Civil Courts Review from its publication to the present, can be found here : Civil Courts Review - The story so far.


Anonymous said...

Members of the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates will understandably be loathe to loosen their control over the antiquated system masquerading as due process in Scotland.

Not only does it ensure longterm employment on any one case but also requires a client pays for a duplication of effort - namely if you want to approach, far less engage Counsel, you must also pay a solicitor.

Just one example of 'a nice little
earner' - which was kicked out in the rest of the UK years ago.

Anonymous said...

Just reading the Law Society's response.It begins with their usual claims to represent the profession and public interest.

Who believes this nowadays,a lawyers regulatory body able to speak for both sides of the fence.Ridiculous.

Sheriff Taylor has asked how high he should jump and the Law Society have spoken.Reforms will be non existent.

Anonymous said...

Surely Lord Gill must speak out?After all as you rightly point out he condemned our civil justice system as unfit for purpose.Just how unfit for purpose are the politicians who do nothing about such an unfit for purpose justice system for FOUR years?

Anonymous said...

It seems Kelvin MacKenzie agrees with you about fat cat lawyers..

These fat-cat lawyers should be in the dock

By Kelvin Mackenzie

PUBLISHED: 23:06, 23 March 2012 | UPDATED: 11:58, 24 March 2012

This is an extraordinary story. It started three years ago when a hairdresser put a leaflet through a letter-box and a dog on the other side of the door nipped her finger.

The hairdresser contacted a ‘no-win no-fee’ lawyer and explained that due to the injury, she suffered stress, anxiety and could not even wash the dishes for two weeks. Her boyfriend had to do them. The agony of it all.

After a lengthy legal exchange, the dog’s owners, who were not insured, agreed to pay her £1,000.
Lord Justice Leveson would do well to turn his attention to his own profession when he has finished with the media

Lord Justice Leveson would do well to turn his attention to his own profession when he has finished with the media

Then they got a bill from the hairdresser’s lawyer. And it was, wait for it, a staggering and unbelievable £17,000.

The couple did not have that kind of money. They live in £120,000 home with a £32,000 mortgage, the husband is 65 and has just retired.

The lady, a 60-year-old grandmother, earns £1,000 a month.

Panic set in. So this week they contacted the only person they believed can help them. Me. I was equally appalled and started talking to the lady’s lawyers, who were just as angry. They told me that the hairdresser’s solicitors had already reduced their demand to £12,250 — but this was still completely out of the question.

Once the name ‘MacKenzie’ is bandied about, though, the atmosphere changes.

Within 48 hours, the hairdresser’s lawyers have caved in and a deal is done for £6,900 — still an enormous amount of money considering it’s a nipped finger. Also, the couple have a £1,500 bill from their own solicitor.

As you read this, you must wonder where the couple live, what their names are and who are the lawyers. All I can say is that it happened in a city in the North-West, as I have agreed to be bound by a confidentiality agreement.

This is because the hairdresser’s lawyers said that otherwise, they would go to the county court and fight out the bill and they might get better than the £6,900.

By this time I had fighting irons on and said I would be happy to fund the difference between the £6,900 and anything the judge might award.

But the exhausted couple wanted the nightmare to end and I bowed to their wishes.

This is a disgraceful case and I would be grateful if Lord Leveson, after he has dealt with Press ethics, might like to look at the disgusting goings on in his own, legal, ‘profession’.

Or is that too much to ask?

Anonymous said...

I doubt anyone in their right mind believes the Taylor Review will have any effect on lowering the costs of justice in Scotland and clearly the Law Society & Faculty of Advocates have got in their first to nip any changes in the bud.

At least you got to it before the sell out to the Law Society rags had their bite.We know where to come to find out the truth.Here.

Anonymous said...

and if you are really serious about saving money just avoid using lawyers altogether and do it yourself - its better than being taken on a 5 year ride through the courts with f all to show for it other than a demand for the £22,579 I am complaining to the SLCC about and will not be paying no matter what comes through the post!

Anonymous said...

Had a look through this Taylor website its a Scottish Government operation and the independence referendum flashes up before you can click on anything else.Just take it from me the SNP will never allow real access to justice in Scotland that much is clear from the bugger all done about Lord Gill's condemnation of Scotland's joke of a justice system.

Anonymous said...

Its no use Peter,people are just too bloody greedy and as soon as some lawyer flashes up incredible figures in front of a dumb client's eyes they will happily jump on the bandwagon only to get stiffed later on and deservedly so.

However its good to hear (as I do from many) you are making a mess of some of Scotland's finest law firms.All that lost business and lost chances to rip people off wont be going down very well will it.

Anonymous said...

My tuppence says we can confidently expect another whitewash.

Anonymous said...

This is analagous to a Rottweiler (the Law Society of Scotland) to have its teeth placed around Alex Salmonds gonads, waiting to apply downward pressure if poor Alex utters but one word out of place.

So in answer to the question does Alex Salmond have the balls to find a solution to Scottland's corrupt and medieval Judicial System then the answer is not likely.

This is what happens when a weak and timid ruler/owner fails to properly train and keep his attack dog on a short leesh?

The dog will ultimately turn on its owner and exert its dominance over that owner.....?

My vote would be for castration!

At least then poor Alex would be able to save Scotland from the self serving corrupt actors who believe they are 'above the law', the downside being that poor Alex will have a higher pitched voice?

Anonymous said...

Where are you now Lord Gill?
Your criticisms of Scotland's civil justice system were strong now seem a little too distant in the wind.A wasted opportunity for Scotland as usual.If there had been millions at stake in legal aid for lawyers it would have been a different story

Anonymous said...

Everyone and their Auntie knows that the bomb got on the flight via a CIA covert operation at Heathrow...