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Court reforms will 'allow more consumers to take legal action'

CONSUMER groups have dismissed claims by Scotland's leading legal bodies that planned civil court reforms will obstruct justice.

Which?, the consumer rights organisation, welcomed the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, saying that on the contrary it would improve access to justice for ordinary people, making it more affordable to take action.

The Law Society Of ­Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates said the bill, which proposes moving personal injury cases from the Court Of Session in Edinburgh to sheriff courts, may restrict access to justice.

The professional body for solicitors said that although more cases will be heard in the courts, there will be little increase in the number of sheriffs, leading to delays.

The Faculty Of Advocates has said legal representation will be pushed out of the reach of ordinary people and see litigants in Scotland worse off than those elsewhere in the UK.

It says in a sheriff court the use of counsel has to be sanctioned, which is not the norm elsewhere in the UK.

The court reforms could see only the largest civil cases heard in the Court Of Session, Scotland's leading civil court, and a new court created to deal with civil appeals and less serious criminal appeals.

A key proposal is raising the threshold under which the sheriff court can deal with civil cases from £5000 to £150,000. Litigants would have the choice of proceeding only in the sheriff court, or in the Edinburgh court if the claim was above the new higher threshold.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "Moving cases below the value of £150,000 in to the Sheriff Courts will mean more consumers will be able to take action against shoddy work and faulty goods."

Citizens Advice Scotland said the reforms were a "huge opportunity to enhance accessibility for users of the civil court system".

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