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Entries in gill review (3)


Reform moves a step closer for civil cases in Scotland

The newly published Courts Reform Scotland Bill is intended to overhaul the whole system in order to direct proceedings to the most appropriate judge and court and make civil justice quicker and cheaper.

The most direct areas of concern for FNF Scotland are the proposals to develop  'specialisation' among sheriffs. The tradition up to now has been that any sheriff should be able to turn his or her hand to any matter that lay within the jurisdiction of Scottish civil law. Lord Gill, who carried out the original civil justice review, recommended increased specialisation in areas such as personal injury, commercial law - or family law.

In practice the larger courts already do this to some degree but it isn't really practical in the smaller courts. Some of the smaller courts are already marked for closure with their business being moved to bigger courts.

Another significant proposal is the creation of a new category of 'summary sheriffs' who might end up dealing with some contact and residence matters.

Lord Gill's review also highlighted the need for better forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) which could easily be relevant to family cases. The most often mentioned form of ADR in family cases is mediation in its various forms but some separated parents have also tried arbitration.

While ADR might not need legislation, FNF Scotland will be pressing for it not to be forgotten in amongst the court reform.


Consultation on civil court reform

Changes to the way civil courts work in Scotland have been announced at the start of a consultation period on proposed legislation

The proposals provide the legal framework for implementing the majority of recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review, led by Lord Gill.

The proposals discuss a redistribution of business from the Court of Session to the sheriff courts, creating a new lower tier of judiciary in the sheriff court called the summary sheriffs with jurisdiction in certain civil cases and summary criminal cases.

Other proposed measures include the creation of a new national sheriff appeal court and a new national specialist personal injury court.

FNF Scotland welcomes views from members about these changes, and will respond to the consultation. Our response will include suggestions about the importance of identifying high-conflict cases at an early stage, the need for Sheriffs to have a clear understanding of how such cases can be resolved, and the need to avoid delay in re-establishing contact with children when cases reach court and for contact orders to be enforced effectively.


Lord Gill takes on top Scottish legal post

Lord GillLord Gill, the newly appointed head of the judiciary in Scotland (Lord President), gave his views on family court reform when he spoke at the launch of Families Need Fathers Scotland in November 2010.

His talk at that event concerned the major review of civil courts that he carried out in 2007-2009, which will form the basis for forthcoming law reform in Scotland.  He stressed the need for judicial continuity, case management and a focus on the issues that matter.

He commented that: "Disputes about children need to be resolved swiftly, and most disputes are capable of resolution.  As Families Need Fathers recognises, the time and energy spent in dispute would always be better spent directly on the children."

"Instead, we learned [during the Gill Review] that parties were arriving at court only to find there was no sheriff available, or that the sheriff had criminal cases to deal with first.  Starting late, the hearing might end up being split over weeks or months, increasing the cost and leaving the parties in limbo."

"They might then have to wait months for a decision.  A case might pass through the hands of any number of sheriffs, meaning sensitive information had to be explained again and again and risking inconsistent decision-making.  Of course this is a godsend for any party who actively wants to delay matters."

Families Need Fathers Scotland looks forward to these changes being implemented in coming years.