Last Tuesday I took part in a demonstration session of the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service (SCTS) Civil Online case management system ahead of its launch on 13 March 2018. The SCTS plan to roll out the service in two separate phases.
Phase 1 will enable users to track the progress of all Simple Procedure claims in which they are a party or which they represent a party. A party litigant or those acting as agents can, at a glance, ascertain the status of their case including the procedural steps taken to date.
The introduction of phase 1 is not earth shattering. It won’t change the way we do business in the sheriff courts. It is a step up from the court rolls and in some way opens up the internal court system to the public. The system will certainly help keep parties informed as well as alleviate some of the administration burden placed on the clerks of court. Further updates are envisaged. For example, to allow printing of court documents will be introduced. This will alleviate the need for 2nd extracts (as a wet signature is no longer required) saving time and cost.
Phase 1 sets up the basic foundation for phase 2. It has the functionality in place to include other types of procedure, for example ordinary actions. Yet since over 50% of the current business in the sheriff courts is simple procedure based, phase 1 will provide a good proof run for the system.
Phase 2 will have a larger impact on how we do business in the sheriff courts. It will enable simple procedure claims and supporting documents to be submitted and viewed online keeping the process as paperless as possible. There is potential for a simple procedure case to be run entirely without any paper documentation having ever crossed the sheriff’s desk. We were advised however that using the system will not be compulsory. Paper process will still be acceptable.
As it stands there is no integration proposed for firms using their own case management systems (like ourselves) meaning there may be a duplication of work. Moreover there may be issues with the cross-over of parties electing to use the paperless system and those who will still submit documents in hardcopy. There may be issues with regards to electronic principals in terms of the “Best Evidence” rule, but we have been assured that the those documents submitted in electronic form will be treated as principals. These are concerns I am sure the SCTS will work tirelessly to address. It is hoped that the addition of an online submission system should reduce the length of time it takes to raise an action and will keep parties as informed as possible. The SCTS will be looking to launch phase 2 in quarter 1 of 2019.
The system has been set up primarily for lay users. However the vast majority of simple procedure claims are submitted by legal representatives. Therefore, before further investment is put into the launching of Phase 2 the SCTS would welcome the views of those in practice on whether the online submission platform would be of interest to them.
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The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.