Review of final appellate jurisdiction

The Scottish Government has appointed Professor Neil Walker of the Edinburgh Law School to undertake a review of final appellate jurisdiction in Scotland, it was announced on 15 December 2008.  .

Professor Walker has been asked to report back by 1 November 2009.  The review covers both criminal cases (in which final appellate jurisdiction rests with the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh) and civil ones (where final jurisdiction rests with the House of Lords).  But from October 2009, under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the Law Lords will become the UK Supreme Court, hearing final appeals not only in Scottish civil cases but also in the devolution cases 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, perhaps having in mind the higher judiciary's comments to the Calman Commission on this subject.  Any change to devolution cases would however need legislation in the UK Parliament.

Justice Secretary Kenny 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.

The relationship between this review and the Gill Review of Civil Justice, expected to report in early spring 2009, is not clear.