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Justice figures increase controversy

JUSTICE Secretary Kenny MacAskill has claimed civil justice statistics showing a fall in cases heard by sheriffs supports his planned legislation reforming the system.

But today several organisations will appear at Holyrood to argue against the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, including the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, which said: "The proposition could very well result in the complete collapse of the new system."

The STUC has said it is "uncomfortable" with increasing the limit for Court of Session claims from £5000 to £150,000, while Scottish Women's Aid said it was "unfortunate and worrying" that child contact cases were treated as "run-of-the mill cases." It was reported last week that the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates feared the changes could hamper access to justice and push legal representation out of the reach of ordinary people.

But Mr MacAskill said yesterday: "The latest civil law statistics underline why we need to reform Scotland's courts and in particular ensure that the right cases are heard in the right courts, at the right time."

The latest statistics show a 45% fall in the number of debt cases raised in Scotland's courts between 2008-09 and 2012-13, down by almost half, and a 47% drop in repossession and eviction cases in the same period.

Mr MacAskill said: "At present too many cases, particularly lower value personal injury cases, are being raised in the Court of Session - clogging up the system and resulting in higher costs and delays for the parties involved."

Thompsons, the law firm handling workplace accidents and diseases, said with "a few simple amendments" the Bill was capable of delivering its aims in a way "fairer to victims of injury and disease that will work on a practical level".

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