Government plans to move personal injury cases out of the Court of Session will leave a £1 million black hole in annual income from court fees, lawyers have warned.
The Civil Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill is a vehicle for sweeping changes to the civil court system, including the transfer of the majority of injury claims from the Court of Session to the sheriff court.
But the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has urged Parliament’s justice committee to seek clarification from legal affairs minister Roseanna Cunningham about the impact of losses to the public purse at its next evidence session on Tuesday (22 April).
“Rigorous parliamentary scrutiny has now prompted the Government to admit that a new fee structure is to be introduced but it is still silent on how much sheriff court fees will need to be hiked to make up the shortfall,” said Ronnie Conway,Scottish co-ordinator of APIL.
“Figures obtained through a freedom of information request have helped us to establish that the average Court of Session fee for a personal injury case is more than £500 higher than the average sheriff court fee,” he said.
“So it is easy to calculate that if Government plans to move more than 2,000 cases from the Court of Session to the sheriff court go ahead, the shortfall is going to be around £1 million a year. And if vulnerable injured people and other court users are going to have to stump up the money to cover that cost, we need to be told.
“There is much in the reform package which we support,” Mr Conway went on. “But plans to introduce such far-reaching change without clarity about the costs involved and resources needed to make the whole work is completely unacceptable.”