Scottish Court Reform: The new Simple Procedure Rules

November 2016

Scottish Court Reform: The new Simple Procedure Rules

On 28 November 2016 a new Simple Procedure will be introduced in Scotland as part of the ongoing civil courts reform.  The rules will apply to many low value claims up to £5,000 and will replace the existing Small Claims and Summary Cause processes in that respect.

The new procedure is designed to be more accessible and user-friendly, and to provide a quick, inexpensive and informal process. It is notable that when the current Rules came into force, the aims were very similar and not really achieved so hopefully this time will be different.

Key features of the new Simple Procedure Rules include:

·         It will apply to debt recovery and delivery actions where the sum sued for, or the value of the item in question, is up to £5,000.

·         The Simple Procedure Rules are set out in a very different format to other court rules, using plain English terms and user-friendly guidance such as flowcharts. 

·         Existing terminology will change, such as replacing the terms “Pursuer” and “Defender” with the terms “Claimant” and “Respondent”, and the term “sist” with the term “pause”.

·         A new set of forms will be introduced, which can be accessed online. 

·         In due course an online case management system will enable actions to be raised, documents to be submitted and progress of cases tracked. It had been hoped that this system would be in place from 28 November 2016, but the Scottish Courts Service has now confirmed it will be 2017 before the system is up and running. 

·         When an action is raised no hearing date will be fixed, as with the current procedure, and instead a court timetable will be issued setting out dates by which the person raising the action must take certain steps.

·         The new Claim Form provides for the party raising the action to detail the evidence they intend to lead in order to prove their case, including details of witnesses they intend to bring to the final hearing.

·         If an action is defended, the Sheriff may make various orders, including referring parties to Alternative Dispute Resolution, fixing a hearing, arranging a Case Management Conference and making a decision without a hearing.

·         The Sheriff will have the power to dismiss any action he/she considers to be incompetent. 

·         There will be a set of Standard Orders which the Sheriff may make at conclusion of the case, which are intended to be more understandable than the Decrees which are currently granted. 

·         The Sheriff is to have more of an inquisitorial role throughout the case with a view to identifying the issues in dispute and trying to resolve those issues as early as possible.

Ongoing court actions for up to £5,000 will continue under the existing Small Claims and Summary Cause procedures.  Going forward it is intended to introduce a further set of Simple Procedure Rules which will apply to other types of actions, including actions for recovery of heritable property. 

Optima Legal Scotland is incorporating the new rules and forms into our existing case management system, and will be ready to conduct cases under the new procedure from 28 November 2016. 

For further information on these developments please do not hesitate to contact the Optima Legal Scotland team.