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New Sheriff Appeal Court Opens

Scotland’s new Sheriff Appeal Court now has jurisdiction to hear civil appeals from sheriff courts.

The court was launched in September last year with jurisdiction in criminal cases. It subsequently acquired its jurisdiction and competence in civil cases on 1st January this year.

The new court, which is presided over by Appeal Sheriffs, aims to improve efficiency by ensuring cases are dealt with at the appropriate level and by preventing unmeritorious claims from reaching the higher courts.

It brings to an end the appeal from a Sheriff at first instance to a Sheriff Principal and the virtually unrestricted right of appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session.

From now on civil appeals will be heard by a bench of three Appeal Sheriffs sitting in Edinburgh, although procedural business, routine appeals and appeals from small claims and summary causes may be dealt with by a single Appeal Sheriff in the local sheriffdom. The Civil Sheriff Appeal Court will also deal with appeals from the Specialist Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh.

Importantly, judgments of the Sheriff Appeal Court will be binding throughout Scotland, creating a consistent and coherent body of case law.

The establishment of the Sheriff Appeal Court is part of a raft of changes to the Scottish justice system introduced by the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, which implemented the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review led by Lord Gill.

Other recent measures to improve the structure and operation of the courts include raising the threshold below which only the sheriff court can deal with civil cases to £100,000 and introducing changes to the procedures for Judicial Review and certain appeals to the UK Supreme Court.

“The introduction of the Sheriff Appeal Court's civil jurisdiction is to be welcomed,” commented Sheriff Principal Craig Scott QC, Vice President of the Sheriff Appeal Court. “We aim to manage and determine those civil appeals coming before the court in a manner commensurate with the issues under consideration. Efficiency and consistency of approach will be high on the agenda.”

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