Establishing JP courts etc.
Section 59: Establishing JP courts
349.This section imposes a general duty on the Scottish Ministers to make provision for summary criminal courts. The Scottish Ministers are also given the power to establish JP courts by order, with reference to particular sheriff court districts. It is intended that JP courts will eventually replace district courts and will be established on a phased basis, sheriffdom by sheriffdom, for the purpose of delivering a unified summary criminal courts administration under the administration of SCS.
350.Before making an order establishing JP courts, the Scottish Ministers must consult the sheriff principal for the relevant sheriffdom. There is a presumption that there will be at least one JP court established for each sheriff court district, except where Scottish Ministers determine that a JP court is not necessary. Currently there are no district courts in the sheriff court districts of Lerwick, Orkney and Lochmaddy. It is not anticipated that any JP courts will be established in these districts.
351.Subsection (5) requires Scottish Ministers, in deciding whether a JP court is necessary, to take account of the amount of summary criminal business and the capacity of other JP or sheriff courts in the sheriffdom.
352.Subsection (6) provides that, where JP courts have been established, Scottish Ministers may subsequently, by order, provide for the relocation or disestablishment of a JP court. Subsection (7) provides that, before making such an order, Scottish Ministers must consult the sheriff principal for the relevant sheriffdom.
Section 60: Making provision for JP courts
353.This section imposes a duty on Scottish Ministers to make provision for the organisation and administration for JP courts. The Scottish Ministers are also responsible for providing suitable and sufficient premises and facilities.
354.In making such provision, the Scottish Ministers may require local authorities to let or sub-let their premises to the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of the JP court, or to make their premises available for use as a JP court (e.g. through a licence arrangement). The level of rent that is payable, and the other terms of any lease, will be subject to agreement. Any dispute that the parties are unable to resolve is to be determined by an arbiter (subsection (6)). These provisions should be read in conjunction with section 65 which confers a power on the Scottish Ministers to transfer property that is used for or in connection with a district court.
Section 61: Administration of JP courts
355.This section places the responsibility for the efficient administration of JP courts in the sheriffdom on the sheriff principal. In exercising this responsibility, the sheriff principal may issue administrative directions to those involved in the administration of JP courts (other than the Scottish Ministers). The Scottish Ministers may also issue administrative directions for the purpose of ensuring the efficient administration of JP courts, subject to prior consultation with the sheriff principal.
Section 62: Area and territorial jurisdiction of JP courts
356.The territorial jurisdiction of JP courts is set out in subsection (1), which provides that a JP court may try offences committed within the sheriff court district in which it is located, or in any other sheriff court district within the sheriffdom. This is similar to the territorial jurisdiction of the sheriff court. Further provision relating to the jurisdiction of JP courts is contained in sections 9 and 10 of the 1995 Act, as modified by paragraphs 9 and 10 of the schedule to this Act.
357.Subsection (4) provides that a JP or stipendiary magistrate may exercise their judicial functions at any place within the sheriffdom where s/he is appointed. Subsection (5) further provides that a JP or stipendiary magistrate may sign, at any place in Scotland, a warrant, judgement, interlocutor or other document relating to criminal proceedings within the sheriffdom where s/he is appointed. Subsection (6) makes it clear that a JP or stipendiary magistrate may exercise signing functions, as defined in subsection 76(6) of the Act, within Scotland.
358.Subsection (7) is a transitional provision. It ensures that, after a JP or stipendiary magistrate has been appointed for a sheriffdom (in terms of section 67 of the Act), s/he may continue to work within any remaining district court that lies wholly or partly within the sheriffdom.
Section 63: Constitution and powers etc. of JP courts
359.Section 63(1) makes clear that the JP court has competence, subject to the provisions in sections 6 and 7 of the 1995 Act, to deal with summary proceedings in respect of offences. Section 7(1) of the 1995 Act provides that district courts have the power to deal with common law offences. That subsection is repealed by paragraph 9(2) of the schedule to this Act. The revised subsection 7(3) of the 1995 Act, which is inserted by the same paragraph of the schedule, instead makes it clear that district courts have the power to try any common law or statutory offences which are triable summarily.
360.Section 6(2) of the 1995 Act provides that a district court may be constituted by one or more JPs. Some district courts sit with benches of 3 JPs, in others only 1 JP presides. Section 6(2) is modified in the schedule to the Act and, as modified, will allow the JP court to be constituted by one or more JPs. However, section 63(2) provides the Scottish Ministers with the power to amend section 6(2) of the 1995 Act, by order, to provide that a JP court may be constituted by one JP only.
361.This section also makes provision relating to the staff of JP courts, including clerks of court. The clerk of a JP court will be a solicitor or advocate, and will provide legal advice to the court. Clerks of court and other staff will be appointed and employed by Scottish Ministers (in practice they will be employees of the SCS).
Section 64: Abolition of district courts
362.This section sets out the process for the disestablishment of district courts. The intention is that all of the district courts in a particular sheriffdom will be disestablished at the same time as JP courts are established in a sheriffdom under section 59 of the Act. The Scottish Ministers must consult the relevant sheriff principal and local authority before making an order to disestablish a district court.
363.The existing legislation governing the operation of district courts is the District Courts (Scotland) Act 1975. Subsection (4) provides for this legislation to be repealed by the Scottish Ministers by order. The intention is that the legislation relating to the operation of the district courts will be repealed for a particular sheriffdom at the same time as the district courts are disestablished and the JP courts are established. The parts of the legislation relating to the lay justice system (for example the provisions on the appointment and removal of justices of the peace) will be repealed across the country at the same time.
364.Subsections (5) to (8) contain transitional provisions for remaining district courts. Legislation relating to JP courts (including the provisions in this Act relating to matters such as the sentencing powers of the JP court) may be applied to district courts pending their disestablishment.
Section 65: Transfer of staff and property
365.This section provides that the Scottish Ministers must make a scheme for the transfer of the employment of certain members of district court staff to the Scottish Administration. Such a scheme may be referred to in an order made under section 64(1) of the Act. The scheme may apply to some or all staff who work in the district court that is being disestablished. It may, by way of example, apply only to staff that spend more than a particular proportion of their working time on district court duties. Subsection (4) makes it clear that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (S.I. 2006/246) will apply to staff transferred under this section.
366.Subsections (5) to (8) make provision for the transfer to, and vesting in, Scottish Ministers of district court properties and liabilities when district courts are disestablished under section 64(1). Subsection (6) reflects that fact that the Scottish Ministers are not required to transfer all district court properties to themselves. Some properties may remain with the local authority, depending on the circumstances of each case. Subsection (8) provides that a certificate issued by Scottish Ministers is conclusive evidence of the transfer of any such property or liability.
Section 66: Transitional arrangements for proceedings
367.This section makes provision for the transfer of both continuing and recently completed district court proceedings, including related records, productions and other documents, to the appropriate JP court. Recently completed proceedings are proceedings that have been completed not more than 5 years before the date on which the district court in question is disestablished.
368.The sheriff principal for the sheriffdom in which the district court is located will determine the relevant JP court to which proceedings and records should be transferred.