1. Executive Summary
There were 76,769 civil law cases initiated across the Court of Session and sheriff courts in 2014-15 (not including summary applications). The number of cases initiated is at its lowest since this series of statistics began. This represents a decrease of 42 per cent since 2008-09. However, the number of cases initiated in 2014-15 was similar to the previous two years, halting the downward trend observed over the years prior to that. The reasons behind this decrease are not known but possible factors include increasing use of alternative methods of dispute resolution and concerns over costs for litigants should they lose the case.
Compared to the previous year, the number of cases initiated in the Court of Session increased by 13 per cent, while cases in the sheriff courts decreased by one per cent. Personal injury cases in the Court of Session rose by 20 per cent compared to 2013-14, largely because of a 224 per cent rise in clinical negligence cases. Compensation claims associated with mesh implants and breast implants may explain the rise in such cases. These statistics cover the period before the introduction of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, which is expected to reduce the number of cases in the Court of Session.
The number of family cases has been relatively stable since 2008-09. Divorce / dissolution and parental responsibilities and rights are the biggest case types and together account for 95 per cent of family cases.
Debt cases made up 44 per cent of all civil court cases initiated in 2014-15. However, there were 5 per cent fewer debt cases than in 2013-14 and 49 per cent fewer than in 2008-09.
Personal injury cases were 11 per cent higher than 2013-14 but historically the number of personal injury cases has fluctuated considerably. Cases resulting from a road traffic accident made up the greatest proportion of personal injury cases, accounting for 56 per cent in 2014-15.
Damages cases dropped by 26 per cent compared to the previous year. This continues the long-term trend of decreasing numbers of damages cases.
There was a 31 per cent drop in cases of repossession following a breach of a mortgage or loan secured on a property, compared to 2013-14. This is 68 per cent lower than the number of repossession cases in 2008-09.
Cases involving eviction of tenants from a rented property rose in 2014-15 for the second year in a row but are still 31 per cent lower than in 2008-09.
All sheriffdoms in Scotland have seen an overall drop in the number of cases initiated and disposed since 2008-09. Between 2013-14 and 2014-15, Glasgow and Strathkelvin saw the biggest decrease of 14 per cent in initiated cases. This is in comparison to small rises, year on year, in cases initiated in the Tayside, Central and Fife sheriffdom, South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway and a larger 11 per cent rise in Lothian and Borders. During the latest period, the Tayside, Central and Fife sheriffdom recorded the highest number of sheriff court cases.
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey shows that around one in five adults experienced at least one civil law problem in the last three years. The most common type of issue was disputes with neighbours, followed by problems with money and debt, and faulty goods or services.
The number of all civil law case types have decreased since 2008-09
Email: Eddie Chan