BLM has welcomed the introduction of the first online portal for launching court actions in Scotland as the “start of court action for the Netflix generation”.
The Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service (SCTS) is due to launch a new “simple procedure” on 28 November for handling claims of up to £5,000.
The online system will initially cover non-personal injury claims – such as contract disputes and debt recovery – but is expected to be extended to personal injury claims during the middle of next year.
The new procedure, underpinned by the SCTS’s digital Integrated Case Management System (ICMS), replaces two existing systems: small claims running to £3,000; and summary causes from £3,001 to £5,000.
Summary Sheriffs are anticipated to deal with the majority of Simple Procedure work, though sheriffs may be involved too.
Gillian Rushbury, partner at BLM, said: “The introduction of Simple Procedure marks the start of court action for the Netflix generation.
“Consumers now carry out so many everyday tasks on the internet – like booking flights, ordering takeaway or downloading films – that it will seem quite natural for them to begin legal proceedings online too.
“These reforms are designed to unclog and speed up the Sheriff Court system by removing straight-forward cases that don’t require time spent in front of a sheriff.
“Simple Procedure marks a watershed moment in Scots Law through the use of this online system.”
Claimants be able to begin their action over the internet as well as upload relevant documents, pay any necessary fees and track their case online.
Summary Sheriffs or Sheriffs will respond to a disputed claim within two weeks by making first written orders.
Instead of going straight to a court hearing on evidence, sheriffs will also be able to hold case management discussions to identify the best way to solve the parties’ issues. In addition, the sheriff can refer litigants to alternative dispute resolution – such as mediation – to avoid spending time in court.
Ms Rushbury added: “The new procedure may be called ‘simple’ but the rules and forms on it run to 253 pages.
“Though expressed in ‘plain English’ and drafted with the public in mind, the Simple Procedure rules are quite demanding in terms of requirements to set out quite detailed and extensive information at a very early stage of the litigation.
“There is also quite a lot of pressure to ‘get it right first time’ under Simple Procedure since Summary Sheriffs and Sheriffs can dismiss a claim at any time, even without a hearing or prior indication that a decision without a hearing is intended. That power to dismiss can be exercised by the Court if the sheriff considers that the case ‘obviously has no prospect of success’ or is obviously incompetent. Equally, a claim can be decided at any time if the response to it is obviously incompetent.”