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Commons Amendment

Volume 413: debated on Tuesday 21 October 1980

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6 After Clause 7 insert the following new clause:

No jury trial in civil actions in sheriff court.

'.—(1) It shall not be competent to appoint a civil action to be tried before a jury in the sheriff court; and accordingly—

  • (a) in the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1907—
  • (i) section 31 (jury trial in sheriff court) shall cease to have effect; and
  • (ii) in Schedule 1 (rules for regulating procedure in the ordinary courts), rules 133 to 150 shall cease to have effect; and
  • (b) section 6 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1913 (procedure at jury trials) shall cease to have effect.
  • (2) Subsection (1) above, and Schedule 3 to this Act in so far as that Schedule relates to—

  • (a) section 3, 27(D) and 31 and rules 133 to 150 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1907;
  • (b) section 2 of the Jury Trials Amendment (Scotland) Act 1910;
  • (c) section 6 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1913;
  • (d) section 2 of the Interest on Damages (Scotland) Act 1958;
  • (e) section 1 of the Interest on Damages (Scotland) Act 1971; or
  • (f) section 40, and the reference thereto in section 41, of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971,
  • have no effect as regards any action which the sheriff has, before the coming into force of this section, appointed to be tried before a jury.'

    My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 6. This clause, in effect abolishes trial by civil jury in the sheriff court. It is designed to replace new Clause 6, which was tabled by the Opposition. That new clause was technically defective. Nevertheless the principle was welcome to the Government and this new clause does no more than give effect to that principle. In so doing, it implements recommendation No. 44 of the Grant Report. My Lords, I beg to move.

    Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said amendment.— ( The Earl of Mansfield.)

    My Lords, perhaps I may say just one word about this amendment. I understand the reasons why this amendment has been brought forward. Until now, it has been compe- tent for an injured workman to obtain a civil jury trial in the sheriff court in an action of damages for personal injuries against his employer. I understand that this has not been very much used, but it has, in fact, been used and indeed I myself appeared in a great many cases of this kind some 20 years ago. But, of course, abolition was recommended by the Grant Committee and also, I think, by the Strachan Committee a little earlier for, essentially, administrative reasons. I do not think there has been any strong pressure since that time for the abolition of civil jury trial and I regret this, if it is the first step towards abolishing civil jury trials in the Court of Session.

    I believe it is valuable to bring juries to court. It helps to keep the public in touch with the administration of justice, including justice in the civil courts, and it also helps to keep the law and its expression simple. So while I do not oppose this change, I rather regret it and I hope that it does not foreshadow any further attack upon the civil jury system in Scotland. I hope, in particular, that it does not foreshadow any attack upon the criminal jury trial, which is vitally important in the administration of criminal justice in Scotland. I trust that the Minister will be able to give me an assurance that the reasons which instruct this amendment are not valid in relation to the Court of Session, or in relation to criminal cases.

    My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has raised two very different points. In so far as civil law is concerned, in both Scotland and England jury trials have been gradually getting fewer and fewer in number, probably for good reasons. It was felt—and, indeed, it was felt and agreed by the Opposition—that the time had come to abolish trials by civil jury in the sheriff court. If such a thing were to extend to the Court of Session, various considerations would arise and I dare say that there would be very considerable debate. But there is absolutely nothing as between trials by jury in civil actions and trials by jury in criminal actions, and I cannot conceive of any Conservative Government trying to abolish criminal jury trials.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.