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Consumers urged to give their views as Civil Justice Advisory Group launches consultation on key proposals of Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review

03 Aug

Consumer Focus Scotland logoConsumer Focus Scotland launches consultation on Civil Justice reforms. CONSUMER FOCUS SCOTLAND’s Civil Justice Advisory Group, chaired by the Right Honourable Lord Coulsfield, have launched a consultation to debate some of the key proposals of Lord Gill’s Scottish Civil Courts Review report and determine the best way forward for implementing the many recommendations made by Lord Gill in his damning two year study & report on the state of Scotland’s “Victorian” civil justice system, a justice system which is famed worldwide for crippling Scots access to justice.

The Civil Justice Advisory Group (CJAG), which was re-convened in January 2010, is seeking views on practical solutions to ensure that people with legal problems have real and effective access to appropriate, affordable and fair dispute resolution processes, particularly for claims of low financial value, housing cases, family cases and children’s hearing referrals. It will focus principally on the recommendations of the review relating to pre-court measures, including improving access to justice for party litigants, the proposed ‘third -tier’ of judicial office, and the proposed new simplified procedure.

To support the consultation process, the CJAG will also host a free consultation seminar on Monday 13th September at the Roxburghe Hotel in Edinburgh. The event will be interactive, with roundtable discussions and feedback sessions. Professor Dame Hazel Genn, Dean of Laws and Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at University College London will be the keynote speaker. If you have an interest in reforming Scotland’s justice system, be there.

The seminar programme can be accessed by clicking here. Places can be reserved by using the online registration form or sending the booking form to the address listed below.

The consultation and seminar feedback will help the Group in formulating a detailed report to the Scottish Government on how it should take forward some of the recommendations of the Scottish civil courts review report.

The consultation paper can be accessed by clicking here : Civil Justice Consultation Response Paper (pdf)

Responses to the consultation should be submitted to Consumer Focus Scotland before 24th September 2010 by email to : civil.justice@consumerfocus.org.uk or via the online response form

By post to :
Civil Justice Advisory Group Consultation
Consumer Focus Scotland
Royal Exchange House
100 Queen Street
Glasgow
G1 3DN

I would urge as many readers as possible to take part in this consultation, for the benefit of yourself and all Scots who need access to a fairer, much improved Civil Justice system in our own land. Access to justice for one, access to justice for all !

Commenting on the consultation, the Right Honourable Lord Coulsfield, Chair of the Civil Justice Advisory Group, said: “I was very pleased to be invited to Chair the re-convened Group earlier this year. It is important that the recommendations of the civil courts review be fully debated and understood before they are put into effect.”

He continued : “I would strongly urge anyone who has any relevant experience, good or bad, of the operation of the court system or other means of resolving disputes, or any comment, criticism or suggestion to contribute to this important debate by responding to this consultation paper. The greater the level of participation, the better placed the Group will be to make a strong and useful contribution to the debate over the Gill proposals and the decisions as to how they are to be carried out.”

Sarah O’Neill, Head of Policy and Solicitor at Consumer Focus Scotland, which provides policy and secretariat support for the CJAG, added: “The Scottish civil courts review set out a bold range of challenging but pragmatic recommendations, presenting a vision of a civil justice system fit for the 21st century. We are keen to encourage debate on the proposals and how they can best be implemented for the benefit of those individuals who find themselves having to use the civil justice system, whether they are pursuing a claim against someone else, or defending a case brought against them.

Ms Neill continued : “The outcome of the Civil Justice Advisory Group’s work will be influential in taking this agenda forward. The consultation, and accompanying seminar, provide opportunities for everyone with an interest in achieving a more user-focused and accessible civil justice system to contribute their views and help shape the Group’s report to the Scottish Government. We hope that all of those with an interest in these issues will take the opportunity to get involved in this debate.”

Readers can view my earlier report on Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review here : Scots Law ‘shake up’ as Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review supports McKenzie Friends, Class Actions & wider access to justice for all

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

Civil Courts Review

The Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review was launched today Wednesday, 30 September 2009 and is available to download below:

Background to the Civil Justice Advisory Group :

In 2004, the Scottish Consumer Council, one of Consumer Focus Scotland’s predecessor bodies, established the Civil Justice Advisory Group, supported by the then Scottish Executive and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The Group, chaired by the Right Honourable Lord Coulsfield, held six seminars between September 2004 and April 2005, structured to mirror a user’s journey through the civil justice system, from seeking advice on their dispute, through the dispute resolution process, to the enforcement stage. The Group published its final report, The Civil Justice System in Scotland – a case for review? (available as a PDF by clicking here) in November 2005. The Group recommended that there should be a review of several important aspects of the civil justice system in Scotland, the majority of which were then taken forward by the civil courts review.

Following the publication of Lord Gill’s civil courts review report, Consumer Focus Scotland has reconvened the Civil Justice Advisory Group, under the continued chairmanship of the Right Honourable Lord Coulsfield. The CJAG’s membership includes representatives from the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, Citizens’ Advice Scotland, Scottish Legal Aid Board, Scottish Association of Law Centres, Scottish Mediation Network, Scottish Committee of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council and the Scottish Government, as well as Professor Alan Paterson from the University of Strathclyde.

Given its instrumental role leading up to the civil courts review, the Group felt it was very well placed to react to the review’s proposals, and also to make its own recommendations about future courses of action. The Group’s deliberations will focus principally on those aspects of the review of most direct relevance for consumers, namely those recommendations relating to pre-court measures, including improving access to justice for party litigants, the proposed ‘third -tier’ of judicial office, and new simplified procedure.

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