Outline and describe the structure and jurisdiction of the Scottish criminal and civil courts. Give examples of the types of cases these courts will hear and indicate which Scottish legal personnel you would expect to find there.
Scottish courts are divided into two distinct and separate systems, each with its own jurisdiction and terminology. As stated above these are the civil and criminal courts.
First of all I will look into the structure and jurisdiction of the civil courts. The civil court deals with disputes between individuals, companies or public bodies and can be in extremely diverse areas of law. Civil cases are said to be adversarial. This means that the judge will hear legal argument and evidence from all parties and then make a judgement based on the balance of probabilities'. It should be noted that the standard of proof required is not as high as that of in the criminal courts. Regarding the structure of the civil courts it is split in to three different sections. We have The Sheriff Court, The Court of Session and The House of Lords. The Sheriff Court is the busiest court as it deals with both civil and criminal cases. Scotland is divided into six areas known as sheriffdoms. Theses sheriffdoms are; Grampian, Highlands and Islands; Tayside, Central and Fife; Lothian and Borders; Glasgow and Strathkelvin; North Strathclyde and South Strathclyde Dumfries and Galloway. The sheriffdoms are further divided into 49 sheriff court districts. Each sheriffdom has a sheriff principal who administers the work and is assisted by the other sheriffs. The sheriff court has very wide jurisdiction as regards the subject matter it can deal with. Jurisdiction concerns the subject matter of the claim and the geographical location of the parties. Firstly, jurisdiction is limited to persons who are resident within or have some association, e.g. business ownership, with the sheriffdom in which the court is situated. With regards to property the case will be heard in the court which has jurisdiction over the property. Similarly, with regards to contracts, the case will be raised in the court with jurisdiction over the geographical area in which the contract was to be performed. Actions for debt and damages of any amount can be heard in the sheriff court and a claim of less than £1500 has to be in the sheriff court. Other examples of areas of law that are seen in the sheriff court are as follows; separation and divorce, custody of children and maintenance, consumer complaints, personal injury claims, disputes regarding succession or trusts, breach of contract and defamation, bankruptcy and the winding up of company's which share capital less than £120,000. The sheriff court is said to be a court of first instance. This means that cases will be started and determined there. There are three different procedures in the event of an appeal. Small claims can be appealed directly to the sheriff principal. Summary causes are directed to the sheriff principal and passed onto the Court of Session if he deems it appropriate. Finally, ordinary causes can go directly to the Court of Session.
The Court of Session has jurisdiction over the whole of Scotland and sits only in Edinburgh. It is a court of first instance and appeal. The court is divided into what is referred to as the Outer and Inner House. The Outer House is the court of first instance. There is a staff of 22 judges. Each case is heard by a single judge, known as Lord Ordinary. It is possible to seek a jury trial in the Outer House but is uncommon and is confined to narrow range of uncomplicated cases. The Outer House has jurisdiction over all the same matters as the sheriff for those over which the lower court has exclusive jurisdiction. The Inner House is basically the appeal court. The Inner House comprises 11 judges and is divided into two divisions, simply called the first and second divisions. The two divisions have the same authority and jurisdiction. For most appeals,...
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