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Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014

Simple procedure

122.At present, cases for sums up to £5,000 fall to be dealt with under small claims or summary cause procedure in the sheriff court. The Scottish Civil Courts Review concluded that it was unnecessary to have two different sets of procedures for cases for £5,000 or less, but that there was a continuing need for a distinct procedure for low value claims. It considered that the financial limit should be set at £5,000 for the time being, but recommended the creation of a new procedure for cases under £5,000 to be dealt with primarily by summary sheriffs. The Act refers to this new procedure as “simple procedure”.

123.The Review advocated a flexible procedure based on a problem-solving, interventionist approach in which the court should identify the issues and specify what it wishes to see or hear by way of evidence or argument. The new procedure should be accessible to party litigants, with clear, straightforward court rules in plain English and under which the summary sheriff would be able to assist the parties to reach settlement.

Section 72 – Simple procedure

124.Subsection (1) establishes a new type of civil proceedings in the sheriff court called simple procedure. Simple procedure replaces the form of procedure known as summary cause which will be abolished through the repeal of sections 35 to 38 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971 by paragraph 6 of schedule 5 to this Act. The abolition of summary cause proceedings will also mean the abolition of small claim proceedings which are a subset of summary cause proceedings. Subsection (2) makes it clear that most of the provisions about simple procedure will be made by court rules made under section 104(1).

125.Subsection (3) lists the types of proceedings which can only be brought by simple procedure, providing a monetary limit of £5,000 with respect to such proceedings. No other types of proceedings can be brought subject to simple procedure. Subsection (4) makes clear that the limitation on the type of case which must be brought under simple procedure does not prevent cases already raised under different forms of procedure from being transferred to simple procedure under section 78, or affect the operation of section 83 which provides that cases which are subject to summary cause procedure will become subject to simple procedure. It also makes clear that this limitation does not prevent a simple procedure case from being transferred out of that procedure under section 80.

126.Subsection (5) makes it clear that the obligation to raise an action falling within the description in 72(3)(a) by simple procedure does not apply where such a case is also of a type affected by section 73 (proceedings in an all-Scotland sheriff court), nor where it is also of a type affected by section 74 (proceedings for aliment of small amounts under simple procedure). Subsection (6) provides that court rules made by an act of sederunt by the Court of Session will determine the way in which the sum in subsection (3) may be calculated. Subsection (8) enables rules of court to clarify when proceedings are of a type that are to be subject to simple procedure. The method through which the court has determined whether a case must be raised under summary cause procedure is set out in the case of Milmor Properties v W & T investments Co. Ltd. [2000]. This power permits rules of court to adopt or modify this method.

127.Subsection (9) ensures that the term “simple procedure case”, when used in Part 3 of the Act includes cases which have been transferred to simple procedure under sections 78 and 79 and cases which have been made subject to simple procedure by other enactments. Subsection (12) provides that the £5,000 limit may be varied by the Scottish Ministers by order (which is subject to the affirmative procedure by virtue of section 133(2)(a) of the Act).

Section 73 – Proceedings in an all-Scotland sheriff court

128.Section 73 provides that where proceedings for the payment of a sum of £5,000 or less may be brought in an all-Scotland sheriff court (for example, the proposed Sheriff Personal Injury Court) by virtue of an order under section 41(1), then those proceedings are not subject to simple procedure in the specialist court. The claimant has the choice of raising his or her claim in the local sheriff court under simple procedure, or in the all-Scotland sheriff court.

Section 74 – Proceedings for aliment of small amounts under simple procedure

129.Section 74 re-enacts and updates the drafting of section 3 of the Sheriff Courts (Civil Jurisdiction and Procedure) (Scotland) Act 1963. It provides that, regardless of the general rules in any enactment on simple procedure, that an action for aliment where the amount claimed does not exceed a certain sum may be brought subject to simple procedure. The sum set by the section may be varied by an order made by the Scottish Ministers, subject to negative procedure. Given the re-enactment of section 3, the 1963 Act is now wholly repealed by paragraph 21 of schedule 5 to this Act.

Section 75– Rule-making: matters to be taken into consideration

130.Section 75 establishes that, as far as possible, the rules of court which govern simple procedure will enable an interventionist and problem-solving approach. It is to be read subject to the obligation on the Scottish Civil Justice Council to draft the rules in accordance with the principle that they should be as clear and easy to understand as possible, in terms of section 2(3)(b) of the Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance (Scotland) Act 2013. The obligation to make rules of court which reflect such principles is deliberately framed to be exercised “so far as possible” in order to avoid any obligation to create rules that may be inconsistent or contradictory with one another. Paragraph (d) is intended to ensure that the rules are flexible enough to allow a sheriff to follow the procedure that is most appropriate to the circumstances of the case.

Section 76 – Service of documents

131.Section 76, which is derived from section 36A of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971, permits rules made under section 104(1) to provide for the sheriff clerk to be required to effect service of any document on behalf of parties in a simple procedure case.

Section 77 – Evidence in simple procedure cases

132.Subsection (1) is based on section 35(3) of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971 and is a reflection of the desire to make the simple procedure less bound up in technical, legal rules. Subsection (2) restates section 36(3) of the 1971 Act which was included as ordinary cause rules in the sheriff court require the recording of evidence. Ordinary cause procedure will not exist after the Act is fully commenced (by virtue of the repeal of Schedule 1 to the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1907 by schedule 5 paragraph 4(h) of this Act). However the new rules of procedure are likely to require the recording of evidence in at least some cases and so section 77(2) is necessary to make it clear that such recording is not required in simple procedure cases.

Section 78 – Transfer of cases to simple procedure

133.Section 78 provides for cases which are not being dealt with under simple procedure to be transferred to that form of proceedings, provided they are now of a type that could be brought under simple procedure. Accordingly if proceedings develop to such an extent that, if they had been raised at that point, they would have had to have been raised under simple procedure, they may be transferred to simple procedure. Subsection (2)(b) permits cases to be transferred to simple procedure if the parties agree, even if the sum sought would exceed the usual monetary limit for simple procedure cases. In such a transfer there is no obligation that the sum sought requires to be lowered to meet the financial limit set out in section 72(3) or 74(2). Accordingly the parties’ agreement to continue subject to simple procedure does not have the effect of capping the sum sought to those financial limits. The sheriff has no discretion and must give effect to the parties’ joint application. Unlike sections 79 and 80, a single party cannot make a section 78 application.

Section 79 – Proceedings in an all-Scotland sheriff court: transfer to simple procedure

134.This section provides for a party to a case raised in an all-Scotland sheriff court to apply to have it transferred out of that court and into simple procedure in another sheriff court having jurisdiction, on special cause shown. The sheriff has discretion as to whether to give effect to the application.

Section 80 – Transfer of cases from simple procedure

135.Section 80 provides for the transfer of cases out of simple procedure. Given the abolition of ordinary cause rules, it is left to court rules under section 104 to determine if a uniform set of rules is to be adopted for all remaining cases outwith simple procedure or if different rules are to apply to different kinds of case. This provision simply states that cases will be transferred from simple procedure without specifying the procedure to which they are being transferred. As with section 79, a single party may make an application and the sheriff has discretion as to whether to give the application effect.

Section 81 – Expenses in simple procedure cases

136.Section 81 re-enacts section 36B of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971 with modifications to reflect the new system of simple procedure. Subsection (1) provides that the Scottish Ministers may prescribe, by order (subject to the affirmative procedure by virtue of section 133(2)(a)), categories of simple procedure to which alternative expenses rules will apply. In other words, in those cases the normal rules on expenses will not apply. Subsection (2) makes it clear that these categories will be defined by reference to the value of the claim or the subject matter of the claim, permitting types of actions, for example personal injury, to be excluded from any limitation on expenses.

137.An order under subsection (3) could also specify some civil proceedings where different expenses could apply, excepting them from categories set out in subsection (2).

138.Subsection (4) then sets out cases in which those rules are disapplied. Subsection (5) is based on section 36B(3) of the 1971 Act and lists the circumstances in which the restrictions on expenses should not apply owing to the behaviour of one of the parties to the case. Subsections (6) and (7) allow the sheriff to make an direction disapplying the restrictions on expenses in an order under subsection (1) in complex cases.

Section 82 – Appeals from simple procedure cases

139.This section provides that an appeal on a point of law may be taken under section 110 to the Sheriff Appeal Court, however only against the final judgment of the sheriff (“final judgment” is defined in section 136(1)). No further provision is required in this section for onward appeals of simple procedure cases from the Sheriff Appeal Court to the Court of Session since such appeals will be governed by the general rules applicable to section 110 appeals.

Section 83 – Transitional provision: summary causes

140.Section 83 makes provision to deal with the transition between summary cause procedure and its replacement, simple procedure. This ensures that all references in legislation which refer to summary cause are to be read as referring to simple procedure.

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