Civil justice statistics in Scotland: 2019-2020

The 2019-2020 civil justice statistics in Scotland release includes main statistics tables, figures and supplementary statistics tables.

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Civil justice is concerned with the rights and obligations of people and organisations. One way of resolving civil law disputes is for a case to be brought to court. Common types of cases where civil law is used include debt, divorce and claims for personal injury.

Long-term downward trend in initiated cases, normalising after the rise in caseload in 2017-18

Courts reform:

A number of changes to the courts system has meant that cheaper, simpler procedures are increasingly being used to resolve civil law problems. The Sheriff Personal Injury Court was established as part of these reforms.

These statistics show that this specialised court is most likely to cover accident at work and asbestos cases. At least 80% of accident at work and asbestos cases used this court in 2019-20. Sheriff Personal Injury Court has expanded its caseload since inception in 2015-16, and now covers nearly 40% of personal injury cases in Scotland.

Accident at work and asbestos cases are most likely to use the Sherrif Personal Injury Court

1. Principal crave is the first legal remedy requested by the pursuer or petitioner as stated in the initial summons

The Covid-19 pandemic had a negligible effect on court business in 2019-20, as court closures due to lockdown only affected the last week of the financial year.

There were 74,400 civil law cases initiated across the Court of Session and sheriff courts in 2019-20 (excluding summary applications[1]). This represents an increase of 3% from 2018-19.

Figure 1: Long-term downward trend in initiated cases, normalising after the rise in case load in 2017-18

A chart showing the long-term downward trend of civil justice cases since 2010-11.

Key points at a glance:

  • According to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2019-20, around three-in-ten adults experienced civil law problems in the three years prior to interview.
  • Debt cases made up 46% of principal craves initiated at civil courts in 2019-20. Debt actions reversed the drop in volumes recorded last year when they made 41% of initiated cases.
  • Eviction actions initiated made up 14% of principal craves initiated at civil courts in 2019-20.
  • Family cases made up 16% of principal craves, of which 72% related to divorce and dissolution in 2019-20.
  • Family and eviction action cases initiated tend to have multiple craves in contrast to other case categories which typically only have one.
  • Nearly two-fifths (38%) of personal injury cases were raised in the national Sheriff Personal Injury Court.
  • 60% of damages cases were initiated under simple procedure in 2019-20. 52% of the simple procedure cases disposed of were dismissed.
  • The number of repossession cases initiated have fluctuated in recent years, they were up 18% compared to 2018-19.
  • All sheriffdoms in Scotland experienced an increase in business levels from 2018-19. Glasgow and Strathkelvin saw the largest increase in initiated cases (up 10%), this was followed by Tayside, Central and Fife (up 6%).
  • In 2019-20, there were 14,825 civil legal aid grants, the vast majority of which were for cases in the sheriff courts.

Data sources

This publication presents management information from the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Services systems. There is also relevant information from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, Scottish Legal Aid Board and National Records of Scotland.



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