The £220K toilet roll - Court documents are full of errors,omissions say clients, solicitors. INTERLOCUTORS from thousands of cases heard each year in Scotland’s “Victorian” courts may not worth the paper they are printed on due to hundreds of errors, incorrect references, inaccurate points of law, and what in some instances appear to be intentional omissions of what the judge actually said in court. The situation is becoming so bad, some solicitors have dubbed interlocutors as “toilet roll”, even though the documents are supposed to be scrutinised and signed by Scottish judges earning up to £220K a year.
And, when mistakes in interlocutors are pointed out by clients and their solicitors, angry Scottish Court Service staff apparently more interested in stocking up on hospitality, gifts chocolate & champagne than doing their job, routinely refuse to correct their own errors, claiming that documents cannot be changed as they reflected exactly what happened in court - even when it is clear the official account of proceedings contains elements of a fairy tale.
As court users will be well aware, an interlocutor is the document that officially records the final decision of a court.
Interlocutors are usually prepared by the sheriff clerk and handed on to the sheriff for their scrutiny and final signature. A copy of the signed interlocutor (the original being kept at the court as part of the process) is then sent out by court staff to litigants or their legal representatives, awarding the legal authority to put the decision by the court into action.
However, if the content of an interlocutor is incorrect, the lives of litigants can easily be turned upside down along with their relationship with their legal representatives, due to mistakes, errors or deliberate omissions of a sheriff clerk who failed to produce a true and accurate account of what the judge said or decided in court. And due to the attitude or motives of those who prepare the interlocutors, it is often impossible to have any mistakes rectified.
While members of the judiciary are expected to check the interlocutor for its correctness and accuracy, the frequency of mistakes and omissions contained in interlocutors have led to rising numbers of litigants and solicitors questioning whether the sheriff or judge has ever seen the interlocutor, or had time to check it, even though their signature appears on the document.
In some cases, copies of interlocutors which have been sent out to party litigants, appear to be copies of a copy, with, in the words of one solicitor “a photocopied signature of a sheriff placed at absurd angles to the remainder of the document”.
In a recent case brought to the attention of Diary of Injustice by member of the legal profession who was contacted by a party litigant, an apparent ink stain error made by a sheriff during his signing of an interlocutor was accurately repeated in interlocutors issued in different cases on different dates, sent out to several law firms operating in the same part of Scotland, along with one party litigant.
All the interlocutors apparently signed with the same sheriff’s signature along with the same ink stain error, contained numerous & repetitive mistakes which were only corrected after four solicitors simultaneously contacted the sheriff clerk and made him aware they had “evidence to suggest the signatures were not authentic”. From enquiries made on this matter by one of the solicitors concerned, it appears the Scottish Court Service were not made aware of this incident by the sheriff clerk in question.
Unsurprisingly, the frequency of mistakes, incorrect references & omissions contained court in interlocutors appear to increase when cases involving disputes between clients and their law firms, damages & injury claims against large insurers, big business, medical negligence claims & cases involving public authorities. And, in many cases were sheriff clerks have been contacted about the mistakes, they have failed to tell their superiors a complaint has even been made about their work.
In another case already covered by Diary of Injustice which related to a sequestration of a client by a Perth law firm who left their client standing on the steps of the Court of Session without a lawyer, which in turn contributed to the collapse of the client’s medical injury claim, similar questions were raised as to the authenticity of interlocutors originating from Perth Sheriff Court.
Speaking to Diary of Injustice today, a client who did not wish to be named, alleged he had been threatened by a sheriff clerk after informing him the interlocutor produced by the court “looked like a forgery”. and contained inaccurate details of what had actually been said in court along with references to “created evidence”.
If readers have similar experiences of mistakes, omissions, perhaps deliberate errors in interlocutors and feel questions regarding the authenticity of interlocutors issued by Scottish Courts must be raised, media attention to this problem may help.
Diary of Injustice would also like to hear from any litigants or court users who have made complaints to the Scottish Court Service regarding the authenticity or integrity of a court interlocutor Readers can contact Diary of Injustice at firstname.lastname@example.org