Update on Court Business as at 12 June 2020

12th June 2020

There have been some important updates from the Scottish Court and Tribunals Service (SCTS) over the past couple of weeks, primarily detailing how certain types of action are being prioritised and guidelines on practice in this 'new normal'. 

Sheriff Courts

SCTS have confirmed that, whilst we remain in Phase 1, the focus will continue to be on urgent business and clearing the backlog built up from earlier in lockdown.

That said, an updated summary of the civil court work now being undertaken confirms that, alongside undefended and simplified divorces being processed, initial writs and notices of intention to defend will be processed, but in chronological order unless pertaining to an urgent matter.   

SCTS have confirmed that further details and arrangements about moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2 (no earlier than 15 June 2020 and as per the Scottish Government's route map) will be included in Practice Notes to be issued shortly for each Sheriffdom.

Court of Session

An updated note for practitioners was issued on 1 June 2020 confirming current arrangements in the Court of Session up to 22 June 2020 (unless extended). You can find the note here

The first practice note issued by the Lord President in 2020 was published yesterday and has effect from today, 12 June. The note applies to all substantive court hearings due to take place by means of video conference in the Court of Session.

Whilst it is a short note, it contains important guidance on changes to well-established practices in the Court of Session, including:-

  • Where a hearing is to proceed by video conference, parties must lodge electronic copies of any productions with the Court and an electronic copy of a production will be considered to be the principal copy unless good reason is provided otherwise.
  • Parties are to co-operate, agree and lodge a joint list of those productions which require to be referred to at the hearing. The list should comprise only those productions which are relevant to the legal and factual issues to be raised at the hearing and which are likely to be referred to at it.
  • Each party must intimate in writing to the Court the names and email addresses of each person whom the party intends to call as a witness.
  • Parties are responsible for ensuring that their witnesses are ready and available to join the video conference at the appropriate time.
  • As with any court hearing conducted by video conference, each party must ensure its electronic equipment and internet connection to the Court - and that of its witnesses - is of appropriate quality and robustness for the anticipated duration of the proceedings. Each party must ensure that the hearing is conducted with the same decorum and respect as a hearing conducted in the courtroom.

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