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VESTED INTERESTS need only apply : Victorian values of our courts in the dock, yet new Scottish Civil Justice Council quango may end up doing little for Scots access to justice

14 Apr

Outlook is bleak for Scots access to justice as planned reforms appear overtaken by time. AS the sands of time continue to devour what have so far turned out to be many false promises of a new dawn for Scots justice in the 2009 Civil Courts Review, a new quango in the form of the Scottish Civil Justice Council (SCJC) has been created to take on functions from two decades-old bureaucratic, lawyer-dominated Court Service quangos responsible for much of the current mess of Scotland’s courts and which did little for Scots access to justice over the past few years.

Unsurprisingly, recruitment for the new Scottish Civil Justice Council is to include a heavy mix of lawyers, advocates and “suitable individuals who may be appointed at the Lord President’s discretion” (also known as the old tap-on-the-shoulder job offer). Applications for the positions on offer will end noon tomorrow on Monday 15 April, with interviews being held in early May and successful candidates attending the first Council meeting, on Monday 10 June 2013.

Among the mix of lawyers and other vested interests being sought to run the new quango, there will be only two “Consumer representatives” sought for Scottish Civil Justice Council, which will take on the rule drafting functions of the Court of Session Rules Council (established in its current form by Section 8 of the Court of Session Act 1988) and the Sheriff Court Rules Council (established in its current form by Section 33 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971).

In addition to its rule drafting functions, the SCJC will have a remit to provide advice and make recommendations to the Lord President and the Scottish Ministers on the development of the civil justice system, which was heavily criticised in the 2009 Civil Courts Review report authored by the now current Lord President Lord Gill , who condemned Scotland’s justice system as being “Victorian” and unfit for society. In 2013, it still is.

Vested Interests sought for Justice Quango : Recruitment of Members for Scottish Civil Justice Council

Advocate, solicitor, consumer representative and LP members 6 to 12 appointments available

The Scottish Civil Justice Council (SCJC) will be established in May 2013 when the Scottish Government brings into force the relevant provisions of The Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Act 2013.  The first meeting of the SCJC is due to take place on 10 June 2013.

The SCJC will take on the rule drafting functions of the Court of Session and Sheriff Court Rules Councils and in addition will have a remit to provide advice and make recommendations to the Lord President and the Scottish Ministers on the development of the civil justice system. The SCJC will in particular be responsible in its early years for implementing the procedural changes to effect the reforms contained in The Scottish Government’s forthcoming Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, currently being consulted on.

The Lord President is seeking to appoint a minimum of 2 advocates, 2 solicitors and 2 consumer representatives to the Council, and up to 6 LP members (suitable individuals who may be appointed at the Lord President’s discretion).  A summary of the overall membership can be viewed here.

* Members should expect approximately 12 days’ commitment a year and, among other matters, will:

* Develop draft rules for the Court of Session and sheriff court civil proceedings;

* Advise and make recommendations to the Lord President on the development of the civil justice system;

* Develop the SCJC annual programme and report;

* Take into account the needs of court users and potential court users; and

* Co-operate with others in the justice system.

Successful candidates will meet one or more of the criteria in the following areas: legal knowledge and skills; understanding of people and society; knowledge and understanding of the wider justice system and issues affecting it; and personal qualities.

The Lord President is committed to the principles of appointment on merit and to the well-informed choice of individuals who, through their abilities, experience and qualities match the requirement of the post.  Further details as to eligibility and selection criteria are set out in the Lord President’s Statement of Appointment Practice and candidate information forms.

To apply, please download a copy of the application form and submit it with an equal opportunities monitoring form to scjc@scotcourts.gov.uk. For further information please contact Ondine Tennant at scjc@scotcourts.gov.uk / Scottish Civil Justice Council (Appointments), Parliament House, Edinburgh, EH1 1RQ / 0131 240 6769.

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