Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2017-18

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland.

The latest civil justice statistics, published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician today (Tuesday 2 April), show that 81,200 civil law cases were initiated across the Court of Session and sheriff courts in 2017-18 (excluding summary applications). This represents an increase of 10% from 2016-17, and is only the second increase in court business levels over the last ten years. This change has occurred in the context of far-reaching reforms to the conduct of court business. These reforms are intended to make the resolution of civil disputes simpler and cheaper. 

Business has moved out of the Court of Session, decreasing by 48% since 2015-16. Most of this business will have been displaced to sheriff courts, where the exclusive competency for cases on which sheriffs can rule has increased to £100,000. The specialised Sheriff Personal Injury Court has expanded its caseload since its inception in 2015-16, and now covers over a third of personal injury cases in Scotland.

The types of civil justice problems encountered by people in Scotland and resolved in the courts have not changed much over the past ten years. Debt actions remain the most common, constituting 46% of cases. Eviction and Family actions were second and third most common, at 18% and 16% respectively.

In the context of rising levels of business overall, most case types have increased in parallel. The largest increases were recorded for Debt (+22%), Repossession (+17%) and Personal Injury (+13%). However, family cases have decreased by 5%. Three quarters of family type cases had divorce as the first issue.

All sheriffdoms in Scotland experienced an increase in business levels from 2016-17. Between 2016-17 and 2017-18, Tayside, Central and Fife saw the largest increase in initiated cases (15%), while Grampian, Highlands and Islands saw the smallest (4%).

The 2017-18 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 (15%), followed by problems with faulty goods or services (5%), and money and debt issues (4%).

The full Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2017-18 release and accompanying tables are available here.

This release provides an overview of civil law court cases by theme, including trends in family disputes, debt, personal injury, damages, repossession and eviction cases since 2008-09, together with a breakdown of the number of cases that were found in favour of the pursuer or otherwise, and whether they were defended or undefended.

These statistics are used to inform a wide range of policy and decision-making including, for example, modernising the civil courts. These statistics also inform the public about the business of Scottish courts.

The statistics released today were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


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