Report calls for critical look at small claims support

May 19, 2016

Research published today calls for the level of support provided to people involved in small claims disputes in our courts to be reviewed.

The report, published by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) and partly funded by the Council, looked into why and how people seek to resolve small claims disputes (up to £3,000) in court.

It recommends a critical look into whether the justice system supports people early enough towards finding a resolution to their problems.

The research focused on Edinburgh and Tayside, and found that early intervention can play a part in maximising the system’s efficiency and minimising the negative effect of disputes on those involved. 

Interviews with sheriffs, court staff and the public suggest there are a number of complex factors affecting when and how disputes are resolved. These include the personal motivations and characteristics of participants, the type of dispute, and the kind of assistance available to resolve them. Overall, the research reported that the majority of people lack knowledge of civil procedures.

Sheriffs and court staff reported that people are keen to bring their case to a formal setting and to have a judgment, but that they have little understanding of the court process or of the time and cost involved.

The research concluded: “Considerable time and effort can be required to resolve disputes which can also place a potentially high level of stress on at least one party. This can often be for disputes that may involve relatively small amounts of money. There is therefore a need to look critically at the system to evaluate whether it supports people early enough towards resolution, thus maximising efficiency and minimising adverse effects of disputes.”

A Scottish Government seminar will be held in June to discuss the research in the wider context of court reform and to look at supporting people to resolve disputes.

The project was carried out by research consultants Blake Stevenson, jointly funded by the Council, SLAB, and the Scottish Government.

See full report

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