Scotland’s new Sheriff Appeal Court will now hear civil appeals from sheriff courts, after its jurisdiction in civil cases came into effect this week.
The new court, which is presided over by appeal sheriffs, is meant to improve efficiency by: removing this business from the Court of Session; ensuring cases are dealt with at the appropriate level; and by preventing unmeritorious claims from reaching the higher courts.
The new civil appellate structure brings to an end the appeal from a aheriff 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.
Importantly, judgments of the Sheriff Appeal Court will be binding throughout Scotland, creating a consistent and coherent body of case law.
Under the new structure, it is now necessary for a party to have the permission of either the Sheriff Appeal Court or the Inner House of the Court of Session before there can be any further appeal, bringing a degree of finality to the appellate system.
Sheriff Principal Craig Scott QC, Vice President of the Sheriff Appeal Court, said: “The introduction of the Sheriff Appeal Court’s civil jurisdiction is to be welcomed. 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.”
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “This is the next step in our efforts to ensure the right cases are heard in the right places and therefore reduce unnecessary delays.
“The new Civil Sheriff Appeal Court will ensure that civil appeals are heard swiftly and efficiently at the appropriate level, reducing the number of such cases that require to be dealt with in the Court of Session.”
This follows the opening of the Sheriff Appeal Court for criminal appeals and the Sheriff Personal Injury Court in September last year.