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Quango’s new rulers for courts : Access to civil justice ‘up for grabs’ as Lord President and ‘usual suspects’ make up new Scottish Civil Justice Council

31 May

New justice quango to make rules for Scotland’s unfit for purpose Court of Session, Sheriff Courts. EARLIER this week the latest attempt to improve Scotland’s unfit for purpose, “Victorian” civil justice system was announced by Scotland’s top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill, in the form of the new Scottish Civil Justice Council (SCJC), the latest quango from Scotland’s antiquated courts system loaded with lawyers, judges and a mere two consumer representatives, which is charged with improving the rules governing civil justice in Scotland.

The new SCJC, which some legal insiders have jokingly dubbed “mad cow disease for the justice system”, replaces the existing Court of Session Rules Counciland the Sheriff Court Rules Council both of which did precious little for Scots access to justice over the decades of their existence, so little in fact, the current Lord President Lord Gill published the Scottish Civil Courts Review in 2009, a two year project which resulted in heavy criticism of Scotland’s civil justice system over which the former two rules councils presided.

The new Scottish Civil Justice Council will take over the rule drafting functions of the former two rules councils and will also have a new, wider, role to advise and make recommendations on the civil justice system. However, any improvements over the earlier arrangements are expected to be measured at a glacial pace, expected to take years, rather than provide immediate relief to Scots stuck in litigation for years, even decades.

Announcing the appointment of members to the Scottish Civil Justice Council, established under the Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Act 2013, the Lord President, Lord Gill, said: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of members of the Scottish Civil Justice Council. The new Council will be responsible for delivering vital improvements to the civil justice system.

Lord Gill continued : “Each member will bring valuable skills and personal experience to the Council and I am confident that collectively, will be more than capable of meeting the significant task ahead in the implementation of the forthcoming civil courts reforms. An open and competitive recruitment exercise was held for the non-judicial members and I am grateful to all those who applied.”

The composition of the council is provided for by section 6 of Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Act 2013. The Act states that the Lord President is to appoint at least 4 judicial, 2 advocate, 2 solicitor, 2 consumer representative members and may appoint up to 6 LP members (these are appointments made at the Lord President’s discretion).The Lord President, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service and the principal officer of the Scottish Legal Aid Board are members of the Council by virtue of their respective offices.  One member of Scottish Government staff is appointed by the Scottish Ministers. Judicial, advocate, solicitor, consumer representative members and LP members hold office for three years.

List of Council members:

The Lord President, Mr Eric  McQueen, Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service, Mr Lindsay Montgomery CBE, Chief Executive SLAB, Miss Jan Marshall, Scottish Ministers’ appointee, Lord Menzies (judicial member), Lord Tyre (judicial member), Sheriff Principal Stephen (judicial member), Sheriff Abercrombie (judicial member), Mr James Wolffe QC (Advocate member), Mrs Sarah Wolffe QC (Advocate member), Mr Eric Baijal (Solicitor member), Mr Duncan Murray (Solicitor member), Mr Ian   Maxwell (Consumer representative member), Miss Lauren Wood (Consumer representative member), Mr Joseph d’Inverno (LP member), Professor Frances Wasoff (LP member)

About the Civil Justice Council

The creation of a single civil rules council for Scotland was one of the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review.  Many of the review recommendations will need new rules of court and the Scottish Civil Justice Council, which will have oversight of the entire civil justice system, will be responsible for taking these forward.  It will also be responsible for keeping the civil justice system under constant review.

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