Scottish courts and the law
Scottish courts and the law

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2 Consolidating your knowledge

In Activity 1 you consolidate the knowledge gained from the course so far by considering a range of scenarios and the challenges of televising court proceedings.

Activity 1 Testing your knowledge of the court system

Timing: Allow about 25 minutes

Consider the following scenarios. Which court do you think would be likely to hear the cases and why? To assist you in reaching a decision in each scenario it may be helpful to refer back to the illustration of the court structure in Scotland.

Which court will hear the case? Why?
1 Alistair has been accused of driving at 45 mph in a 30 mph speed-restricted area. He has declined to accept a fixed penalty and has pleaded not guilty.
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2 Brenda has been involved in a fight on her way home from a night out. She has been accused of assaulting Catherine and breaking her arm in two places.
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3 David has also been involved in a fight. He is accused of stabbing Eric in the stomach. Eric later died in hospital and David has been accused of murder.
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4 Freda has been accused of stealing £40 from the till in the shop where she works.
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5 Gerald has been accused of embezzling £5000 from the bank where he works.
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6 Harriet has borrowed £500 from Simple Loan Credit Company and agreed to pay it back at £50 per month. Three months later she has not repaid any of the money and according to the terms of her loan agreement she is now liable to repay the whole amount. Simple Loan has decided to sue her.
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7 Ingrid and James have been married for 15 years. They are now seeking a divorce.
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8 Katherine was arrested and placed in a police cell. She was later found dead and there is to be a fatal-accident inquiry.
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9 Liam is unhappy with a decision made by his local council to make charges for certain services which were previously free. He wishes to have the decision of the council judicially reviewed.
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10 Mary has sued Norman in the Sheriff Court for £50 but has been unsuccessful. She wishes to appeal.
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Comment

Compare your answers with the ones here. If there were points you missed or were not sure of you may find it helpful to reread the relevant part of this course.

Which court will hear the case?
1 Alistair has been accused of driving at 45 mph in a 30 mph speed-restricted area. He has declined to accept a fixed penalty and has pleaded not guilty. Alistair has been accused of a criminal offence and as such could be brought to any of the courts with criminal jurisdiction – i.e. the Justice of the Peace Court, the Sheriff Court, the Court of the Sheriff Principal or the High Court of Justiciary. However, in practice a minor offence such as this would be heard by the Justice of the Peace Court. Remember that it is the Procurator Fiscal’s decision as to which cases are heard by which court.
2 Brenda has been involved in a fight on her way home from a night out. She has been accused of assaulting Catherine and breaking her arm in two places. Brenda has also been accused of a criminal offence – assault. However, the crime she has allegedly committed involves the victim having sustained broken bones. Therefore it cannot be heard by the Justice of the Peace Court (unless in Glasgow before a Stipendiary Magistrate). Elsewhere the case would be within the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Court, the Court of the Sheriff Principal or the High Court. It is likely an assault of this nature would be brought before the Sheriff Court. In addition, and separately, Catherine may wish to make a civil claim in delict (of assault) against Brenda. As the total claim for such injury is likely to be less than £3,000, this would be a civil claim using the simple procedure in the local Sheriff’s Court at first instance. Note, though, that it could be sent to alternative dispute resolution then, if not resolved informally through this type of negotiation, be heard in the local Sheriff’s Court (a claim such as this can be heard without legal representation).
3 David has also been involved in a fight. He is accused of stabbing Eric in the stomach. Eric later died in hospital and David has been accused of murder. David has been accused of murder – another criminal offence. You will recall that the High Court has exclusive jurisdiction in respect of murder and therefore David’s case would be heard there.
4 Freda has been accused of stealing £40 from the till in the shop where she works. Freda has been accused of theft – a criminal offence. Again, any of the courts with criminal jurisdiction would have the power to hear the case, but in view of the small amount of money concerned it is likely the matter would be dealt with by the Justice of the Peace Court.
5 Gerald has been accused of embezzling £5000 from the bank where he works. Gerald has also been accused of a criminal offence. However, in view of the amount involved it is likely this would be heard by the Sheriff Court. Gerald’s employing bank may also wish to commence a civil claim against Gerald. Such a claim would be on the grounds of breach of contract and under the delict of conversion. As the claim exceeds £3,000 this would be a civil claim filed in the Outer House of the Court of Sessions.
6 Harriet has borrowed £500 from Simple Loan Credit Company and agreed to pay it back at £50 per month. Three months later she has not repaid any of the money and according to the terms of her loan agreement she is now liable to repay the whole amount. Simple Loan has decided to sue her. Harriet is being sued for £500. This is a civil matter and is not therefore within the jurisdiction of the Justice of the Peace Court. The Sheriff Court has exclusive jurisdiction of civil claims for money under £3,000 and therefore her case will be heard there.
7 Ingrid and James have been married for 15 years. They are now seeking a divorce. Divorce is also a civil matter and therefore cannot be heard in the Justice of the Peace Court. The Sheriff Principal cannot hear civil matters at first instance, only on appeal – neither can the UK Supreme Court. That leaves the Sheriff Court and the Outer House of the Court of Session; either would be able to consider the case. In practice it is likely to be heard at the Sheriff Court.
8 Katherine was arrested and placed in a police cell. She was later found dead and there is to be a fatal-accident inquiry. Fatal accident inquiries are civil proceedings. The Sheriff Principal will often hear major inquiries. The case could be heard by the Sheriff, Sheriff Principal or the Court of Session. In practice, an inquiry into a single death is likely to be heard in the Sheriff Court. Therefore the inquiry into Katherine’s death will probably be heard in the Sheriff Court.
9 Liam is unhappy with a decision made by his local council to make charges for certain services which were previously free. He wishes to have the decision of the council judicially reviewed. A judicial review is a civil action. It is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Session and Liam’s action would in the first instance be heard in the Outer House.
10 Mary has sued Norman in the Sheriiff Court for £50 but has been unsuccessful. She wishes to appeal. Mary wishes to appeal the decision of the Sheriff Court in respect of a civil matter. She can do so in either the Court of the Sheriff Principal or the Court of Session.

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