Lord President Lord Gill’s installation & speech: Will Scots “Victorian” justice system reform or remain a self serving fiefdom of vested interests?

11 Jul

Lord Brian GillLord Brian Gill Scotland’s new Lord President .. Is the reforming force with him or are we in for more of the same. SCOTLAND has a new Lord President, Lord Brian Gill, formerly the Lord Justice Clerk under the previous Lord President, Lord Hamilton. Lord Gill, as we are all very well aware, is generally seen as a more ‘reformist’ judge than his predecessor, not least because of the many harsh criticisms contained in the CIVIL COURTS REVIEW, a two year savage critique of Scotland’s antiquated Civil justice system which Lord Gill himself described as “Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms”.

Lord Gill’s speech at his installation as Lord President has been published by the Judiciary of Scotland website, and is reproduced here for those who are following the debate on reforming Scotland’s Civil justice system with a view to giving consumers a higher priority and wider access to justice, instead of what some in the legal profession have in mind, which seems to be more along the lines of fattening the profits of ailing law firms and restricting who can do what in our own courts, paid for at the end of the day, by taxpayers.

Lord Gill’s speech : Ceremony of installation of the Lord President and Lord Justice General

Speech by the Rt Hon Lord Gill on 26 June 2012 :

“The solemnity of this ceremony and the oaths that I have taken are a reminder to all of us of the honour and the responsibility that go with the historic offices of Lord President and Lord Justice General.

I am conscious of the example of those distinguished predecessors in this office whose judgments have illuminated and developed our law as a living system rooted in principle and adaptive to our ever-changing society.

It will be my task to be worthy of their example and to serve Scotland well through the work of these courts.

The Scottish legal system is about to embark on the most significant changes that have taken place in over a century.  The Parliament will now consider legislation for the creation of a Scottish Civil Justice Council.  In due course legislation will be brought forward to implement the main proposals of the Scottish Civil Courts Review.

There will also be major changes in our criminal procedure reflecting some of the recommendations of Lord Carloway and Sheriff Bowen.

The next few years will be a period of transition.  I am confident that the profession will adapt flexibly to whatever changes emerge.  I am convinced that these changes will be most effective and beneficial if all of us, for our respective parts, approach them with an open mind and in a positive spirit.

I hope that in this way Scotland’s legal framework will best serve our society’s needs.

This building has been my workplace for most of my life.  I would like therefore to conclude these brief remarks with a few words to those who work here.

First, a word to the administrative and support staff of the courts.   The complex process by which justice is brought to the citizen depends crucially on your efforts, which are too seldom publicly acknowledged.  I assure you that your work is valued and appreciated.  Recently you have maintained the highest standards of service despite the upheaval of the building works all around you and despite the volume of work that has been imposed on you.  I am glad that I am a personal friend of so many of you.  I assure you of my support in all that you do.

Next, a word to the members of the Bar and the solicitor advocates who practise in these courts.  Having been a practitioner myself, I know the stresses that you experience in your professional lives – preparing cases at short notice, meeting deadlines, arguing difficult points, and so on.  I know the burdens that you bear; and I shall try not to add to them. 

I enter upon the office of Lord President encouraged by the indescribable bond of mutual confidence that exists between the Bench and those who appear before it.  It is a bond that I shall respect and foster.

Lastly, I address my esteemed friends and colleagues on the Bench.  I am grateful to you for the supportive words that you have expressed to me on my appointment.  It is a privilege to preside over a court of such wisdom and learning.

This jurisdiction, through its judgments and through the work of the Scottish Law Commission, has had a powerful influence on legal development in the English-speaking jurisdictions and beyond.  With the help and support of you, my trusted colleagues, I hope to maintain Scotland’s reputation throughout the legal world.

It will be a privilege to be your President and your defender”.


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 in 2009, 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.”

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)

Diary of Injustice 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


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