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New Sheriff Court Simple Procedure Rules

As part of the ongoing development of the legal process following Lord Gill’s radical review of the court system, culminating in the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, a new set of Rules have been introduced to the Sheriff Court with effect from 28th November 2016. 

These replace the previous Small Claims and Summary Cause Procedure Rules.  As the name suggests, the new Simple Procedure Rules aim to make the court process a much more user friendly forum with less cost, more speed and less requirement for solicitors to always be involved. 

Whilst the intent behind these new Rules can never be questioned, the more cynical amongst us might doubt its success. 

The Summary Cause Rules were introduced in September 1976 and the Small Claims Rules were rolled out in 1988.  In each case, they were heralded as offering simplicity, cheapness, quickness and fairness to the court process. 

Whilst these old procedures have now been superseded by the new Simple Procedure Rules, there is a general view that the system worked and afforded claimants the opportunity to pursue claims having regard to these key watch words. 

Time will tell as to how successful these new Rules shall be but regardless of how simple any procedure is set out on paper, there will be a time for all of this to bed in. 

Key features are as follows:- 

  • Rules apply to cases up to £5,000. 
  • It is anticipated that the majority of claims will be for debt recovery matters. 
  • New detailed claim forms are to be submitted, preferably electronically. 
  • An online case management system will allow a Sheriff to review matters with parties at an early stage. 
  • Meaningless claims without any legal basis will be struck out at an early stage. 
  • Sheriffs are encouraged to be pro-active and, where matters can be dealt with without an Evidential Hearing, this will be done. 

We are perhaps still some way off from Judge Judy or Judge Rinder but, with the support of the legal profession and the hard work of the Sheriff Court staff, it is to be hoped that these new Rules will fulfil the ambitions of simplifying matters and allowing small debt claims to be resolved without large legal costs being incurred, or lengthy court attendances for procedural matters where these can be avoided. 

For more information on this, please contact Martin Sinclair or call 01224 632464.

 

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