1. Executive Summary
Figure 1: Civil law cases initiated, by case type, 2008-09 to 2016-17
There were 73,640 civil law cases initiated across the Court of Session, sheriff courts and the newly established Sheriff Personal Injury Court in 2016-17 (excluding summary applications). This is a drop of 5% from the previous year, continuing the long term decrease of 44% since 2008-09. The number of cases initiated in 2016-17 is the lowest since 2008-09.
Compared to the previous year, the number of cases initiated in the Court of Session decreased by 48%. This overall decrease was driven by a 74% decrease in the number of personal injury cases initiated in the Court of Session, as a consequence of the establishment of the Sheriff Personal Injury Court under the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. In comparison, the number of cases initiated in the sheriff courts also decreased although by a lower proportion of 5%.
Following a consistent decrease since 2008-09, there has been a small increase in family cases of 3% from the previous year. However, the long term trend is a decrease of 11%. Divorce / dissolution cases and parental responsibilities and rights cases together accounted for 95% of family cases in 2016-17.
Debt cases made up 42% of all civil court cases initiated in 2016-17. There were 12% fewer debt cases than in 2015-16 and 54% fewer than in 2008-09.
The number of personal injury cases initiated in the civil courts was 4% lower than in 2015-16, but the number of personal injury cases has fluctuated markedly since 2008-09. Cases resulting from a road traffic accident made up the majority of personal injury cases (59% in 2016-17).
The number of damages cases initiated increased by 22% compared to the previous year. However, long-term they are on a downward trend, having fallen by 39% since 2008-09.
There was a 6% drop in initiated cases of repossession following a breach of a mortgage or loan secured on a property compared to 2015-16. This continues a long-term downward trend (83% decrease since 2008-09).
Initiated cases involving eviction of tenants from a rented property decreased by 3% in 2016-17, this was in contrast to a consistent increase in the previous three years. However, overall the number of cases are still 28% lower than in 2008-09.
All sheriffdoms in Scotland have seen an overall drop in the number of cases initiated and disposed of in sheriff courts since 2008-09. Between 2015-16 and 2016-17, Lothian and Borders saw the largest decrease in initiated cases (-12%), while Glasgow and Strathkelvin saw the only rise (+6%).
The 2016-17 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey shows that nearly three in ten adults were estimated to have experienced at least one civil law problem during the previous three years. The most common type of issues were disputes with neighbours (14%), followed by problems with faulty goods or services, and money and debt issues, both at 4%.