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New Sheriff Appeal Court aims to make judicial process more efficient

The Court Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (2014 Act) introduces a new Sheriff Appeal Court that will hear all appeals from the Sheriff Court. 

The 2014 Act removes the direct route of appeal from the Sheriff Court to the Court of Session so that all appeals must go through the Sheriff Appeal Court from 1 January 2016. The new process seeks to make the judicial process more efficient and should result in quicker disposal of appeals than under the previous system. 

A set of bespoke rules governing the function of the Sheriff Appeal Court are being introduced to support the new system. The new rules came into force on 1 January 2016.

The Sheriff Appeal Court has a range of powers to regulate the conduct of appeals. Below we give a broad overview of the appeal procedure and highlight some of the new rules. 

Commencement of an appeal

An appeal must be made by lodging a note of appeal within 28 days of the date of the decision being appealed. However, as before, the Court will consider an application to allow an appeal to be received out of time on cause shown.

On the first available court day after an appeal is lodged the appeal will be brought before the Appeal Sheriff, who will make an appropriate order which will normally require Answers to be lodged within 14 days of the appeal being intimated. 

Standard appeal procedure

The standard appeal procedure involves issuing a timetable specifying the dates for parties to comply with various procedural steps and a date and time being set for a procedural hearing, which will take place after the procedural steps have been completed. 

At the procedural hearing the Appeal Sheriff will ascertain whether the parties are ready to proceed. If parties are ready to proceed the Appeal Sheriff will fix a date for hearing the appeal.

Accelerated appeal procedure

There is an accelerated procedure which may be used in particular cases. Appeals that are likely to be appropriate for the accelerated appeal procedure include:

  • appeals against a decision of the sheriff to grant decree by default; and
  • appeals against a decision of the sheriff to refuse a reponing note.

Motions by email

The new rules mean it is now possible to lodge motions in the Sheriff Appeal Court by email. This will become the standard method for lodging motions and the changes aim to make the procedure more simple and efficient for court users.  

Permission to appeal to Court of Session 

Following the first appeal in all civil actions, the right to a second appeal will be severely restricted. The reality is that very few cases are likely to proceed beyond the Sheriff Appeal Court.

Any appeal from the Sheriff Appeal Court to the Court of Session will only proceed if permission has been given by the Sheriff Appeal Court. Permission may only be granted if the Court considers that the appeal raises an important point of principle or practice or there is some other compelling reason for the Court of Session to hear the appeal. This is known as the 'Second Appeals Test'.

An application for permission to appeal to the Court of Session must be lodged within 14 days after the date on which the Appeal Court gives its decision on the appeal. When an application is made a hearing will be fixed before the Appeal Sheriff who made the initial decision.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at February 2016. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions on www.TLTsolicitors.com

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