11. Recent changes to civil legislation
The introduction of the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 has resulted in changes to the court business relating to children's hearings reported in the Family chapter of this bulletin (see chapter 5 and Table 8). In general, the summary applications raised in court under the new Act have equivalents in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Therefore this bulletin reports a single set of statistics that comprise applications raised under the old Act up to June 2013 and applications raised since then under the new Act.
The statistics shown for children's hearings referral relate to summary applications that are the same under the 2011 Act as the 1995 Act. The applications that make up the children's hearings appeal statistics are slightly wider in the 2011 Act compared to the 1995 Act. The 'extend/vary interim order' statistics are based on applications to extend/vary interim compulsory supervision orders and further extension of interim compulsory supervision orders which are broadly equivalent to section 67 (further detention) of the 1995 Act. Prior to 2013-14, editions of this bulletin referred to these statistics as 'Child in place of safety'. The 'Children's Hearings Act 2011 -other' category includes some applications raised under section 76 of the 1995 Act as well as child protection orders and child assessment orders from the 2011 Act and a range of miscellaneous cases. These changes mean that the total number of cases shown in Table 8 is not comparable to the total number of cases in equivalent tables from editions of this bulletin prior to 2013-14.
The Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced a raft of reforms to the way in which civil law cases are dealt with by the courts in Scotland. Several measures in the Act, including an increase in exclusive competence of the sheriff court, a new simple procedure to replace summary cause and small claims, introduction of a new judicial office (summary sheriffs), establishment of a specialist Scotland-wide personal injury court and the creation of a Sheriff Appeal Court will affect statistics in future editions of this bulletin. However, the 2014-15 statistics reported in this bulletin relate to a period before the Act was implemented and so are unaffected by it.
Marriage and civil partnership
Amongst other measures, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 made provision for the marriage of persons of the same sex. Ultimately, this will affect statistics on divorce and dissolution, although there is no impact on the statistics reported in this edition of the bulletin.
The Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act 2010 came into force on 30 September 2010. This Act included a change to the way that repossession cases related to mortgages and loans related to residential property are raised in court so that these are now raised as summary applications. Previously, nearly all court actions for repossession were made using ordinary cause procedure.
The statistics for court actions relating to repossessions are also affected by the UK Supreme Court judgment in the RBS v Wilson case, issued on 24 November 2010. This resulted in all repossession cases being withdrawn from the courts and resubmitted as summary applications following the completion of the two month waiting period required by the judgment. These changes are reflected in the civil law statistics which show a drop to almost zero in the number of ordinary cause - ordinary procedure repossession cases and a corresponding rise in the number of summary application repossession cases. More information on the effect of these changes on civil law statistics is available from Civil Law Statistics in Scotland 2011-12.
Measures to strengthen the protection for local authority tenants against eviction for rent arrears were introduced in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 and came into force on 1 August 2012.
Personal injury - asbestos
The statistics for asbestos-related pleural plaques cases in 2008-09 were affected by the impact of a House of Lords decision in October 2007, which upheld a majority decision of the Court of Appeal in England (and which was not binding on the courts in Scotland) that the existence of pleural plaques did not constitute actionable damage. Prior to this decision, individuals had been able to bring claims for compensation for pleural plaques since the 1980s.
The subsequent increase in asbestos-related pleural plaques in 2009-10 was mainly due to the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009, which came into force in June 2009 and allows individuals with asbestos-related pleural plaques and related conditions to raise a court case for personal injury. There have been relatively few disposals of these cases, as many were sisted (suspended) pending the UK Supreme Court's decision as regards a petition challenging the validity of the legislation which was lodged on behalf of a consortium of insurers.
That challenge was successfully defended in the Court of Session Outer House, the Court of Session Inner House and the Supreme Court in January 2010, April 2011 and October 2011 respectively.
Email: Eddie Chan