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The courts of Scotland are responsible for administration of justice in Scotland, under statutory, common law and equitable provisions within Scots law. The courts are presided over by the judiciary of Scotland, who are the various judicial office holders responsible for issuing judgments, ensuring fair trials, and deciding on sentencing. The Court of Session is the supreme civil court of Scotland, subject to appeals to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and the High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court, which is only subject to the authority of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on devolution issues and human rights compatibility issues.
The judiciary of Scotland, except the Lord Lyon King of Arms, are united under the leadership and authority of the Lord President and Lord Justice General, who is the president of the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary. The Court of Session has the authority, under the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, to regulate civil procedure through passing subordinate legislation knows as Acts of Sederunt, and the High Court of Justiciary has the authority to regulate criminal procedure through passing Acts of Adjournal. Both Acts of Sederunt and Acts of Adjournal have the capacity to amend primary legislation where it deals with civil or criminal procedure respectively.
The majority of criminal and civil justice in Scotland is handled by the local sheriff courts, which are arranged into six sheriffdoms led by a sheriff principal. The sheriff courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all civil cases with a monetary value up to £100,000, and are able to try criminal cases both on complaint for summary offences, and with a jury for indictable offences. Treason, murder, and rape are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court of Justiciary, and whilst the High Court and sheriff courts have concurrent jurisdiction over armed robbery, drug trafficking, and sexual offences involving children virtually all these cases are heard by the High Court.
Administration for the courts is provided by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, a non-ministerial department of the Scottish Government. The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service is operationally independent of the Scottish Ministers, and is governed by a corporate board chaired by the Lord President, and with a majority of judicial members.
There are various specialist courts and tribunals with specialist jurisdictions, which are subject to the ultimate jurisdiction of either the Court of Session or High Court of Justiciary, including . Children under the age of 16 who face allegations of criminal conduct are dealt with through the Children's Hearings, which are quasi-judicial in nature. Disputes involving agricultural tenancies and crofting are dealt with by the Scottish Land Court, and disputes about private rights in titles for land ownership and land valuation are dealt with by the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. Heraldry is regulated in Scotland both by the civil and criminal law, with prosecutions taken before the Court of the Lord Lyon.
Defunct and historical courts include the Admiralty Court, Court of Exchequer, district courts, and the High Court of Constabulary.
The United Kingdom does not have a single judicial system — England and Wales have one system, Scotland another, and Northern Ireland a third. The Military Courts of the United Kingdom have jurisdiction over all members of the armed forces of the United Kingdom and civilians subject to service discipline in relation to offences against military law. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom operates across all three separate jurisdictions, hearing some civil - but not criminal - appeals in Scottish cases, and determining certain devolution and human rights issues.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was created on 1 October 2009 by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The Supreme Court will hear civil appeals from the Court of Session, and it hears appeals from all the civil and criminal courts of England and Wales and of Northern Ireland. The Supreme Court has no authority to hear appeals on criminal matters from the High Court of Justiciary. Until the creation of the Supreme Court, ultimate appeal lay to the House of Lords, a chamber of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (though in modern practice only the Law Lords sitting in the Appellate Committee, rather than the whole House, heard appeals). The Supreme Court took over the judicial functions of the House of Lords, and also assumed the jurisdiction over devolution and human rights issues vested in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Cases involving "devolution issues" arising under the Scotland Act 1998, as amended by the Scotland Act 2016, which includes disputes regarding the validity of Acts of the Scottish Parliament or executive functions of the Scottish Government, are heard by the Supreme Court. These cases may reach the Court as follows:
The Court of Session is the supreme civil court. It is both a court of first instance and a court of appeal, and sits exclusively in Parliament House in Edinburgh. The court of first instance is known as the Outer House, the court of appeal the Inner House.
The Sheriff Appeal Court is a national court with a jurisdiction over civil appeals from the Sheriff Courts, and replaces appeals previously made to the Sheriffs Principal.
The Sheriff Appeal Court is a national court with a jurisdiction over appeals summary criminal proceedings, and bail decision in solemn procedure, from the Sheriff Courts and Justice of the Peace Courts.
The Sheriff Appeal Court had its jurisdiction extended on 1 January 2016, by the Scottish Ministers through the commenced the provisions of the Court Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 to extended civil appeals to the Sheriff Appeal Court.
The Sheriff Personal Injury Court is a specialist all-Scotland court with exclusive competence to hear cases, with and without a jury, that relate to personal injury. The Personal Injury Court has concurrent jurisdiction with local sheriff courts, over claims relating to personal injury where the case is for a work-related accident claim in excess of £ 1,000, or where the total amount claimed is in excess of £ 5,000. The choice of local sheriff court or the Personal Injury Court is left to the pursuer. However, where a sheriff believes the case is so complex as to require the specialist expertise of the personal injury sheriffs they can remit the case to the Sheriff Personal Injury Court.
In Scotland, all monetary claims for amounts not in excess of £ 100,000 are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the sheriff courts, with the Court of Session having concurrent jurisdiction for amounts of more than £ 100,000.
The Personal Injury Court was established by the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 and the All-Scotland Sheriff Court (Sheriff Personal Injury Court) Order 2015.
The Sheriff Court is the other civil court; this sits locally. The Court of Session and Sheriff Courts have a co-extensive jurisdiction for all cases with a monetary value in excess of £100,000, with the choice of court being given in the first place to the pursuer (the claimant), the majority of difficult or high-value cases in Scotland are brought in the Court of Session.
Any final decision of a Sheriff may be appealed against. There is a right of appeal in civil cases to the Sheriff Appeal Court, and, with permission, to the Inner House of the Court of Session.
The High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court.[ citation needed ]
The High Court is both a court of first instance and also a court of appeal. As a court of first instance, the High Court sits mainly in the former Sheriff Court buildings in the Lawnmarket in Edinburgh, in dedicated premises at the Saltmarket in Glasgow, and also sits from time to time in various other places in Scotland. As a court of appeal, it sits only in Edinburgh.[ citation needed ]
Appeals may be made to the High Court of Justiciary sitting as the Court of Criminal Appeal from the lower courts in criminal cases. An appeal may also be made to the High Court if the High Court itself heard the case at first instance. Two judges sit to hear an appeal against sentence, and three judges sit to hear an appeal against conviction.[ citation needed ]
There is no further appeal from the High Court's decision on appeal, in contrast to the Court of Session, from which it is possible to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the highest court. Appeals under the Human Rights Act 1998 and devolution appeals under the Scotland Act 1998 are heard by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (previously these were head by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council).[ citation needed ]
The Sheriff Appeal Court is a national court with jurisdiction over appeals from summary criminal proceedings in the Sheriff Courts and Justice of the Peace Courts, and from bail decision in solemn procedure at the sheriff court.
The Sheriff Appeal Court was established on 22 September 2015 to deal with appeals against conviction and sentence in summary proceedings before the deal with criminal appeals. The Bench generally comprises three Appeal Sheriffs when considering appeals against conviction, and two appeal sheriffs when considering appeals against sentence. A single Appeal Sheriff hears appeals against bail decisions made by a sheriff or justices of the peace. The criminal Court is based at the courthouse at Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, and will initially sit on two consecutive days each fortnight. Substantive criminal appeals will be heard on Tuesdays and appeals against sentence on Wednesdays.
The sheriff courts are the main criminal courts; they sits locally in sheriff courts throughout Scotland organised in the six sheriffdoms. The procedure followed may either be solemn procedure, where the Sheriff sits with a jury of fifteen; or summary procedure, where the sheriff sits alone in a bench trial. From 10 December 2007, the maximum penalty that may be imposed in summary cases is 12 months imprisonment or a £ 10,000 fine, and in solemn cases 5 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
A higher sentence in solemn cases may be imposed upon remittance of the case to the High Court of Justiciary.
The Justice of the Peace Court is a criminal court which sits locally under summary procedure, where the Justice sits alone or in some areas as a bench of three. Justices are lay magistrates who as advised by a legally qualified clerk, known as the legal adviser. The court handles a variety of minor common law crimes such as breach of the peace, theft and assault, as well as statutory offences such as vandalism, road traffic offences and other public order offences. The maximum penalty which can be imposed at this level is 60 days' imprisonment or a fine up to £2,500.
Scotland has several courts with specialist jurisdictions.
The specialist system of Children's Hearings handles the majority of cases involving allegations of criminal conduct involving persons under 16 in Scotland. These tribunals have wide-ranging powers to issue supervision orders for the person referred to them by the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration. Serious crimes, at the direction of the Procurator Fiscal, are still dealt with in the usual criminal courts.
The Court of the Lord Lyon, the standing court of heraldry and genealogy, is responsible for civil and criminal enforcement of armorial bearings and the right to use certain titles. It is headed by the Lord Lyon, who is King of Arms and senior herald for Scotland.
The Lands Valuation Appeal Court is a Scottish civil court, composed of 3 Court of Session judges, and established under Section 7 of the Valuation of Lands (Scotland) Amendment Act 1879.It hears cases where the decision of a local Valuation Appeal Committee is disputed. The Senators who make up the Lands Valuation Appeal Court was specified in 2013 by the Act of Sederunt (Lands Valuation Appeal Court) 2013, which has both Lord Carloway (Lord President) and Lady Dorria n (Lord Justice Clerk) as members with a further four Senators specified.
The Scottish Land Court has jurisdiction over disputes involving agricultural tenancies and crofting rights.
Under the terms of the Church of Scotland Act 1921 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has sole jurisdiction over its own spiritual affairs, including matters of discipline. [ additional citation(s) needed ]
There are several specialist tribunals in Scotland which often have exclusive jurisdiction over cases relevant to their remit. They are subject to the oversight and ultimate authority of the Court of Session, which can review decisions through either a final appeal or through judicial review.
There are several tribunals that have jurisdiction over either the whole United Kingdom, or over Great Britain. Where these tribunals make an adjudication in Scotland they are subject to the oversight and ultimate authority of the Court of Session, which can review decisions through either a final appeal or through judicial review.When making an Employment Tribunals makes a determination in Scotland it is subject to practice directions from the President of Employment Tribunals (Scotland), and operates under Scots law. These tribunals are administered by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service.
In many cases there is a statutory right of appeal from a tribunal to either an upper tribunal or senior tribunal, or to the Court of Session: for example Employment Tribunal cases are appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, which in turn allows appeals to the Court of Session. In the absence of a specific appeals court, the only remedy from a decision of a Tribunal is an appeal to, or judicial review by, the Court of Session, which will often be more limited in scope than an appeal.
The Bill Chamber was formerly a court of Scotland, often considered as part of the Court of Session but in fact separate from it. It dealt with petitions for suspension (appeal), interdict, sequestrations etc., and was the approximate equivalent to sittings in camera (in chambers) in American or English law.
The Bill Chamber was "under the same roof" as the Court of Session, but was a separate court or jurisdiction.Its history and function were discussed in the report of the Royal Commission on the Court of Session and the Office of Sheriff Principal (1927) which concluded "the usefulness of the Bill Chamber as a Court separate from the Court of Session no longer exists" and it was thus abolished by the Administration of Justice (Scotland) Act 1933.
Some of its processes are now carried out by the Accountant in Bankruptcy.[ citation needed ]
Until 1856, there was a Court of Exchequer in Scotland, which was established Exchequer Court (Scotland) Act 1707, pursuant to a requirement of the Act of Union 1707 which stated:
And that there be a Court of Exchequer in Scotland after the Union, for deciding Questions concerning the Revenues of Customs and Excises there, having the same power and authority in such cases, as the Court of Exchequer has in England And that the said Court of Exchequer in Scotland have power of passing Signatures, Gifts Tutories, and in other things as the Court of Exchequer in Scotland hath; And that the Court of Exchequer that now is in Scotland do remain, until a New Court of Exchequer be settled by the Parliament of Great Britain in Scotland after the Union;
The judges of the Court were the Barons of Exchequer who acted in both a judicial capacity, dealing with revenue cases, debts to the crown, seizure of smuggled goods and prosecutions for illicit brewing and distilling, and in an administrative capacity, mainly auditing accounts. The president of the Exchequer Court was known as the Chief Baron of Exchequer, and the initial president was the Lord High Treasurer. The 1707 Act limited the numbers of Barons to 5.
A separate Exchequer Court was abolished by the Exchequer Court (Scotland) Act 1856, and all of its powers were transferred to the Court of Session. With its abolishment no further Barons of Exchequer were appointed.
District Courts are no longer in existence. They were introduced in 1975 and sat in each local council area under summary procedure only. The Scottish Government merged the management of the Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts (formerly known as District courts), retaining lay Justices. The Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 enabled the Scottish Ministers to replace District Courts by "Justice of the Peace Courts". [ citation needed ]The process is concluded and all District Courts are now abolished and replaced with the new Justice of the Peace courts throughout Scotland, which have strengthened powers to allow more cases to be dealt with at this level.
The High Court of Constabulary was a court in Scotland presided over by the Lord High Constable of Scotland and deputes appointed by the Lord High Constable. Established in the late 13th century the Court was empowered to judge all cases of rioting, disorder, bloodshed, and murder if such crimes occurred within four miles of the King of Scots, the King's Council, or the Parliament of Scotland. Following James VI's move to England, the jurisdiction of the Lord High Constable was defined in terms of the "resident place" appointed for the Privy Council. 128:
In 1815, the Jury Trials (Scotland) Act 1815 created the Jury Court to allow certain civil cases to be tried by jury. The Jury Court was subordinate to the Court of Session, and appeals were heard by the Inner House of the Court of Session.In 1830 the Jury Court, along with the Admiralty and Commissary Courts, was absorbed into the Court of Session following the enactment of the Court of Session Act 1830.
The United Kingdom has four legal systems, each of which derives from a particular geographical area for a variety of historical reasons: English law, Scots law, Northern Ireland law, and, since 2007, purely Welsh law. However, unlike the other three, Welsh law is not a separate legal system per se, merely the primary and secondary legislation generated by the Senedd, interpreted in accordance with the doctrines of English law and not impacting upon English common law. There is a substantial overlap between these three legal systems and the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each legal system defaults to its jurisdiction, each of whose courts further that law through jurisprudence. Choice of which jurisdiction's law to use is possible in private law: for example a company in Edinburgh, Scotland and a company in Belfast, Northern Ireland are free to contract in English law. This is not so in public law, where there are set rules of procedure in each jurisdiction. Overarching these systems is the law of the United Kingdom, also known as United Kingdom law. UK law arises from laws applying to the United Kingdom and/or its citizens as a whole, most obviously constitutional law, but also other areas, for instance tax law.
The courts of England and Wales, supported administratively by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales.
The Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General is the most senior judge in Scotland, the head of the judiciary, and the presiding judge of the College of Justice, the Court of Session, and the High Court of Justiciary. The Lord President holds the title of Lord Justice General of Scotland and the head of the High Court of Justiciary ex officio, as the two offices were combined in 1836. The Lord President has authority over any court established under Scots law, except for the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the Court of the Lord Lyon.
The Court of Session is the supreme civil court of Scotland and constitutes part of the College of Justice; the supreme criminal court of Scotland is the High Court of Justiciary. The Court of Session sits in Parliament House in Edinburgh and is both a trial court and a court of appeal. Decisions of the court can be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, with the permission of either the Inner House or the Supreme Court. The Court of Session and the local sheriff courts of Scotland have concurrent jurisdiction for all cases with a monetary value in excess of £100,000; the pursuer is given first choice of court. However, the majority of complex, important, or high value cases are brought in the Court of Session. Cases can be remitted to the Court of Session from the sheriff courts, including the Sheriff Personal Injury Court, at the request of the presiding sheriff. Legal aid, administered by the Scottish Legal Aid Board, is available to persons with little disposable income for cases in the Court of Session.
The High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court in Scotland. The High Court is both a trial court and a court of appeal. As a trial court, the High Court sits on circuit at Parliament House or in the adjacent former Sheriff Court building in the Old Town in Edinburgh, or in dedicated buildings in Glasgow and Aberdeen. The High Court sometimes sits in various smaller towns in Scotland, where it uses the local sheriff court building. As an appeal court, the High Court sits only in Edinburgh. On one occasion the High Court of Justiciary sat outside Scotland, at Zeist in the Netherlands during the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, as the Scottish Court in the Netherlands. At Zeist the High Court sat both as a trial court, and an appeal court for the initial appeal by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
A sheriff court is the principal local civil and criminal court in Scotland, with exclusive jurisdiction over all civil cases with a monetary value up to £100,000, and with the jurisdiction to hear any criminal case except treason, murder, and rape which are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court of Justiciary. Though the sheriff courts have concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court over armed robbery, drug trafficking, and sexual offences involving children, the vast majority of these cases are heard by the High Court. Each court serves a sheriff court district within one of the six sheriffdoms of Scotland. Each sheriff court is presided over by a sheriff, who is a legally qualified judge, and part of the judiciary of Scotland.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) is an independent public body which is responsible for the administration of the courts and tribunals of Scotland. The Service is led by a board which is chaired by the Lord President of the Court of Session, and employs over 1000 staff members in the country's 39 sheriff courts, 34 justice of the peace courts, the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary, and at the service's headquarters in Edinburgh. The day-to-day administration of the service is the responsibility of its Chief Executive and Executive Directors. The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service is also responsible for providing administrative services for the Judicial Office for Scotland, the Office of the Public Guardian, the Accountant of Court, the Criminal Courts Rules Council, and the Scottish Civil Justice Council.
The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population, including disputes relating to devolution.
In Scotland a sheriff principal is a judge in charge of a sheriffdom with judicial, quasi-judicial, and administrative responsibilities. Sheriffs principal have been part of the judiciary of Scotland since the 11th century. Sheriffs principal were originally appointed by the Monarch of Scotland, and evolved into a heritable jurisdiction before appointment was again vested in the Crown and the Monarch of the United Kingdom following the passage of the Heritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act 1746.
The Court of Exchequer was formerly a distinct part of the court system of Scotland, with responsibility for administration of government revenue and jurisdiction of adjudicate on cases relating to customs and excise, revenue, stamp duty and probate. In 1856 the Court of Session was designated as the Exchequer Court, which now carries out its judicial functions.
The Inner House is the senior part of the Court of Session, the supreme civil court in Scotland; the Outer House forms the junior part of the Court of Session. It is a court of appeal and a court of first instance. The chief justice is the Lord President, with their deputy being the Lord Justice Clerk, and judges of the Inner House are styled Senators of the College of Justice or Lords of Council and Session. Criminal appeals in Scotland are handled by the High Court of Justiciary sitting as the Court of Appeal.
There are various levels of judiciary in England and Wales — different types of courts have different styles of judges. They also form a strict hierarchy of importance, in line with the order of the courts in which they sit, so that judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales are generally given more weight than district judges sitting in county courts and magistrates' courts. On 1 April 2020 there were 3,174 judges in post in England and Wales. Some judges with United Kingdom-wide jurisdiction also sit in England and Wales, particularly Justices of the United Kingdom Supreme Court and members of the tribunals judiciary.
The judiciary of the United Kingdom are the separate judiciaries of the three legal systems in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. However, the judges of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, Employment Tribunals, Employment Appeal Tribunal and the UK tribunals system do have a United Kingdom–wide jurisdiction. In employment law, employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal have jurisdiction in the whole of Great Britain.
The Scottish Land Court is a Scottish court of law based in Edinburgh with subject-matter jurisdiction covering disputes between landlords and tenants relating to agricultural tenancies, and matters related to crofts and crofters. The Scottish Land Court is both a trial court and an appeal court; hearings at first-instance are often heard by a Divisional Court of one of the Agricultural Members advised by the Principal Clerk. Decisions of the Divisional Court can be appealed to the Full Court, which will consist of at least one legally qualified judicial member and the remaining Agricultural Member. Some cases are heard at first-instance by the Full Court, and these cases may be appealed to the Inner House of the Court of Session.
The High Court of Justice in London, known properly as Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice in England, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, are the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Its name is abbreviated as EWHC for legal citation purposes.
An Act of Sederunt is secondary legislation made by the Court of Session, the supreme civil court of Scotland, to regulate the proceedings of Scottish courts and tribunals hearing civil matters. Originally made under an Act of the Parliament of Scotland of 1532, the modern power to make Acts of Sederunt is largely derived from the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. Since 2013, draft Acts have also been prepared by the Scottish Civil Justice Council and submitted to the Court of Session for approval.
Scots law is the legal system of Scotland. It is a hybrid or mixed legal system containing civil law and common law elements, that traces its roots to a number of different historical sources. Together with English law and Northern Irish law, it is one of the three legal systems of the United Kingdom.
The judiciary of Scotland are the judicial office holders who sit in the courts of Scotland and make decisions in both civil and criminal cases. Judges make sure that cases and verdicts are within the parameters set by Scots law, and they must hand down appropriate judgments and sentences. Judicial independence is guaranteed in law, with a legal duty on Scottish Ministers, the Lord Advocate and the Members of the Scottish Parliament to uphold judicial independence, and barring them from influencing the judges through any form of special access.
The Sheriff Appeal Court is a court in Scotland that hears appeals from summary criminal proceedings in the sheriff courts and justice of the peace courts, and hears appeals on bail decisions made in solemn proceedings in the sheriff court. The Sheriff Appeal Court also hears appeals in civil cases from the sheriff courts, including the Sheriff Personal Injury Court.
The Scottish Sentencing Council is an advisory non-departmental public body in Scotland that produces sentencing guidelines for use in the High Court of Justiciary, sheriff courts and justice of the peace courts. Judges, sheriffs, and justices of the peace must use the guidelines to inform the sentence they pronounce against a convict, and they must give reasons for not following the guidelines.