Review of Civil Appeal
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has asked Professor Neil Walker to conduct a review of final appellate jurisdiction in the Scottish legal system.
Professor Walker is Regius Chair of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the University of Edinburgh. He has been asked to report back by November 1, 2009.
Final appellate jurisdiction in Scottish criminal cases currently rests with the High Court in Edinburgh, but final jurisdiction in civil cases rests with the Law Lords sitting in the House of Lords.
From October 2009, under measures introduced by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the Law Lords will sit as judges in the UK Supreme Court, where they will hear the final appeals in Scottish civil cases as well as in devolution cases which are currently heard by the judicial committee of the Privy Council.
Professor Walker is also asked to review the implications of the jurisdiction for the Scottish legal system. Any change to devolution cases would need legislation in the UK Parliament.
Mr MacAskill said,
"The establishment of a UK Supreme Court is an important constitutional reform, introduced by the Parliament at Westminster. It is entirely appropriate that the implications of these changes for the distinctive Scottish legal system are considered in full, in Scotland, and at this time.
"Changes to strengthen judicial independence have also been introduced recently by the Scottish Parliament, and it is important to ensure that such significant constitutional changes are compatible with each other and do not compromise the Scottish legal system's distinctiveness or its full fitness for purpose."
Professor Walker said,
"I am pleased to accept this invitation. My remit will be to consider the distinctive features, benefits and disadvantages of the current Scottish arrangements, and to consider possible avenues for reform in light of the wider constitutional framework."