Sarah Thompson Robertson | Trainee Solicitor

What to expect when going to court

Whilst the majority of cases do settle, some will still require to be heard in court. It is necessary to consider just what “going to court” will involve for one of our clients in the event that their case does not settle.

If your case does go to court you will not be alone. A solicitor from Jackson Boyd will be with you to conduct the case on your behalf in front of the Sheriff.

We attend courts throughout Scotland on a regular basis; however, we remain mindful of the fact that this will not be a regular occurrence for their clients and that it may cause anxiety in the weeks and months leading up to the court hearing. We have therefore set out some answers to the commonly asked questions leading up to a court date to reassure you about the whole court process. Our aim is to obtain the most favourable outcome for you and on occasions this can only be achieved by going to court. Whilst there may be nerves as the case approaches, we are hopeful that at the conclusion of the case it will all have been worthwhile.

Before

If your solicitor considers that your case is likely to proceed to a hearing in court then in the weeks leading up to the hearing date your solicitor will be in touch with you to discuss the case in more detail. Your solicitor will advise you of exactly what will happen when you need to attend at court.

On the day

When should I arrive at court and where should I go?

When the court date finally arrives your solicitor will arrange to meet you at court 30 to 45 minutes before the case is due to commence to make sure that we are all there in plenty of time and to avoid any delays. This was also allow time to discuss the case and your solicitor will answer any questions you have and ensure you know where to sit before the case starts, where you will sit during the case and where you will stand when giving evidence.

Will my case be heard that day?

The Scottish court system is a busy one so it is likely your case may not be the only one calling on that day. At 10 o’clock, which is when most cases start, the court will often do what is known as a ‘call over’. This basically means that the clerk of the court will run through a list of the cases that will be calling in court that day. The reason for this is to establish what cases have settled, which cases may require to be put off to another date and what cases are prepared and ready to proceed. Your solicitor at Jackson Boyd will advise the court that we are acting on your behalf, confirm to the court that we are ready to proceed and will advise how long the case is likely to take.

Once the call over has been completed, the court will then advise the solicitors and witnesses which case will be proceeding first. Unfortunately there will be situations where your case may not be heard on that date and in those circumstances a further date would be assigned. Your case is likely to take priority when it next calls having already been discharged due to a lack of court time. Even if your case is heard that day, it can often over run and additional days may be required. This may be assigned carried into the following day or a later date may be assigned depending on the court diary and practices of the specific court.

Where do I sit in the court room?

If you are the Pursuer (or Claimant) in a court action (pursuing a claim against another party) when the case starts you would likely be seated on the right-hand side of the table directly in front of where the Sheriff sits. Your solicitor would be seated beside you. At the start of the case your solicitor will confirm to the court that you are the first witness and you will be asked to take your place in the witness box. If you are able to, it is better to stand whilst giving evidence as this will mean that the sheriff will hear your answers more clearly and can write them down.

After you take the witness box you will be asked by the Sheriff to take the oath that your evidence will be truthful. The Hearing will then begin with you being asked questions regarding the particular circumstances of your case. You will then be cross examined by the solicitor for the other side. The aim of cross examination is to challenge your evidence so that ultimately the court finds in favour of the other party. What has to be borne in mind at all times is that the other solicitor is simply doing their job and very rarely will their approach be personal. If required, you may then be asked additional questions by your solicitor.

What will happen after I’ve given my witness statement?

After you have given evidence then the other witnesses in the case will give evidence. If you are pursuing the case you can remain in court throughout your evidence and would normally remain seated beside your solicitor. It is very important that you remain silent when other witnesses are giving evidence. It is not appropriate to challenge or disagree with the witnesses’ evidence and doing so could have a negative impact on your case.

Will I find out the outcome of my case on the day?

Once all of the witnesses have given evidence the solicitors for both parties will make submissions to the court. Submissions are effectively closing arguments summarising the evidence and asking the court to find in their client’s favour. After the solicitors for both parties have provided their submissions to the court it is then for the sheriff to provide his or her judgement in the case. In lower value cases (particularly Simple Procedure) the sheriff may simply provide his judgement on the day of the hearing. In higher value cases (more likely Ordinary Action) the sheriff will more likely issue a written judgement. In many cases this will be received within around four weeks but can sometimes take longer. In the judgement the sheriff will detail the evidence that was heard, the decision that has been reached and the reasons for that decision.

Can anyone sit in the court and listen to my case?

Sheriff Courts in Scotland are public courts and therefore it is open to members of the public to sit at the back of the court in order to listen to the evidence in a case. It should be noted however that straightforward civil cases in Scotland it would be very rare for the public gallery to be crowded and those in attendance are likely to be present for the calling of a case that day, be it your case or another. If you are intending to sit in on any court case, you should remain silent and refrain from taking notes when the case is being heard.

Sarah Thompson Robertson

Sarah Thompson Robertson

Sarah is a trainee solicitor with Jackson Boyd. She commenced her traineeship with the firm in 2019.

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