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

24 Mar

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.

BACKGROUND TO CIVIL JUSTICE REFORM IN SCOTLAND

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.

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