Thursday, April 30, 2009

McKenzie Friend proposal gains friends as consumer organisations rally to support petition’s hearing at Scottish Parliament

Which 2Which? supports McKenzie Friends in Scotland. In a show of support for the Scots public and advocates of wider access to justice in Scotland, consumer organisations such as Which? and Consumer Focus Scotland, and law reform groups are rallying to support the 'McKenzie Friend' petition I reported on late last week, which is due to be heard at the Scottish Parliament on 5th May 2009.

McKenzie Friend proposal to Parliament seeks to end 39 years of lawyers monopoly over Scots access to justice Diary of Injustice reported earlier on McKenzie Friend petition. As I reported late last week, Mr Stewart MacKenzie, of Perth lodged a petition at the Scottish Parliament “seeking to urge the Scottish Government to introduce a McKenzie Friend facility in Scottish courts as a matter of urgency.” The move is long overdue in Scotland, after it emerged through investigations that McKenzie Friends have been allowed in the English courts for some thirty nine years, while sadly, Scots have been excluded from the ability to utilise the services of a qualified individual at their side during court appearances which might not be possible due to the lack of unrestricted access to legal representation in the Scottish courts system, currently controlled by the Law Society of Scotland.

Which letter of support for McKenzie Friend Petition page 1Which? lodged glowing support for McKenzie Friends at Holyrood Petitions Committee. The letter from Which? is clear in its terms of support for the introduction "as a matter of urgency" of McKenzie Friend facility in Scotland. Julia Clarke, on behalf of Which? writes : "We are concerned that the inability of legal litigants in Scotland to be able to draw upon the support of a 'McKenzie Friend' in court is likely to prove a distinct disadvantage to those unable to find legal representation. The system, as you may know, has successfully operated in England and Wales for many years, allowing those who cannot access legal representation to draw upon the expertise of agencies and individuals who can provide such support. Indeed, McKenzie Friends are routinely permitted and are only denied where the judge believes it is fair or in the interests of justice to do so."

Which letter of support for McKenzie Friend Petition page 2Which? believes a McKenzie Friend would be ‘highly beneficial’ and result in fairer hearings through lack of legal representation in Scotland. Which?, who have campaigned on legal issues for Scots consumers for a number of years, went on in their letter of support to say : "Which? believes that where litigants cannot afford to, or are indeed unable to find, legal representation, the right to use a McKenzie Friend would be highly beneficial and could only result in a fairer hearing and outcome for members of the public in this situation. At the moment we are concerned that individuals are unfairly disadvantaged where they represent themselves in court, but are unable to take a McKenzie Friend with them to help support them during what can be a very difficult experience."

On the subject of the well known difficulties in obtaining legal representation in Scotland, particularly where solicitors exhibit a ‘lack of willingness’ to represent clients interests, Which? added : "Ideally of course, we are keen to ensure people have good legal representation, but in our experience, it is not always possible for litigants to find a lawyer willing to represent them, even where they have a strong case, and many people simply cannot afford legal representation. In such circumstances it is quite inequitable that they should be denied some support and we can see no reason why the Government should not permit this."

"Although some recent improvements have permitted construction litigants this facility, all other legal litigants are currently denied this support, which would improve access to justice and consumer redress in Scotland. Which? is the UK's largest independent consumer organisation, a charity funded by sales of our magazines and other services, and represents the consumer voice on many issues including legal services. We support Mr Mackenzie's petition and ask that you support it too."

Which? have played a significant role in recent legal reforms in Scotland which helped bring about the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which in turn created the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, designed to bring an element of 'independent' regulation to complaints against solicitors, which have traditionally been handled poorly and rather corruptly by the Law Society of Scotland during its decades long reign as self regulation of Scotland's legal profession.

SCC response to Civil Courts consultation page 43Consumer Focus Scotland also support McKenzie Friend facility in Scotland. Consumer Focus Scotland, formerly known as the Scottish Consumer Council, also support the introduction of McKenzie Friends to the Scottish courts system, and referred to the issue in their response to the Scottish civil courts review. Sarah O'Neill, a Principal Policy Advocate with Consumer Focus Scotland reiterated the organisation's stance : "‘We would welcome recognition by the Scottish courts of the need for discretion to allow some form of ‘McKenzie friend’ to accompany and possibly represent a party litigant in appropriate cases’."

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary 'will wait & see' over petition. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was asked for reaction on the McKenzie Friend petition, being reminded that the McKenzie Friend facility has been available in the rest of the UK for some 39 years previous. A spokesman for Mr MacAskill responded by saying : "We have no comment at the moment. As you will be aware, the petition will be considered by the Public Petitions Committee who will decide whether there should be further action. If the Committee ask Mr MacAskill for his opinion he will give it at that stage."

John SwinneyJohn Swinney has been asked to attend & speak at McKenzie Friend hearing at Holyrood. As I reported in my earlier article of late last week, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney MSP, who happens to be the constituency MSP for Mr MacKenzie, has been asked to attend the Petitions Committee hearing of 5th May to speak on the merits of McKenzie Friends, and on his experiences of representing constituents who have endured long suffering predicaments at the hands of the Law Society of Scotland and legal firms, which have been exacerbated by a well known policy operated by the legal profession of denying anyone access to justice in the Scottish courts where the subject matter of the case may conflict with the interests of the legal profession at large.

Mr Swinney's office was contacted for a media comment but has yet to issue a formal statement on the Cabinet Secretary's intentions, however, given consumer organisations have already come forward and glowingly supported the McKenzie Friend petition, Mr Swinney is widely expected to speak or issue some kind of support on his constituent's behalf.

The McKenzie Friend issue is of significant interest to many throughout Scotland who find it difficult or impossible to engage the services of a solicitor or gain access to the courts, either through the cost of such services, or more often obstruction from the legal profession who find it difficult to represent clients in cases which conflict with the general policies laid down by the Law Society of Scotland, particularly when it comes to members of the public attempting to sue another solicitor, as I have widely reported on previous occasions.

I am of course, also supporting the McKenzie Friend petition, and urge readers, and anyone experiencing difficulties in obtaining access to justice or access to legal representation to support the McKenzie friend Petition 1247 by contacting the Petitions Committee via their email at : petitions@scottish.parliament.uk .

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good work Peter.I think you could be onto a winner here.

All the best keep it up laddie !

Anonymous said...

Law Society will not be happy (again) at this.How many times have they tried to block MFs in Scotland I wonder ?

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Which is all I can say.If it were left to MacAskill and his mob we would all be locked out the courts unless we waived buckets of tenners at his bloody lawyer friends.

Good show Peter Keep up the good work and all of you out there !

Anonymous said...

I has heard on the grapevine that Mr. Swinney had refused to speak on his constituent's behalf - but that was before the support from Which.

See Politicians and Lawyers - see birds of a feather..........

Anonymous said...

We will have evidence soon of how biased the Scottish Executive are in favour of lawyers.
Reinforce your descrimination Salmond.

Anonymous said...

Well written piece as usual Peter.Good luck with the petition next week and a good effort on everyone's part - especially from 'Which'.

Anonymous said...

I was told to read you blog tonight Mr Cherbi.

I have been round 15 firms of solicitors trying to get one to take me on as a client.The case will not surprise you,our ex-solicitor totally ruined the sale of our house and now we face being repossessed by the bank after he told them we couldn't make payment.

Made a complaint to the Law Society and nothing doing and the SLCC will not look at it but if I could get into a court I would be saying plenty about how crooked the Law Society and solicitors are so I hope the McKenzie friend comes to Scotland soon.

I will keep reading your blog for updates.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see people responding to campaigns like this.Keep up the good work Peter !

Two years on ... an appraisal of Scottish Justice under Salmond, MacAskill and the SNP said...

It is now fully two years since Scotland elected a minority SNP Government, under very dubious circumstances – remember the wasted 150,000 votes? Salmond became Scotland’s new First Minister and he quickly appointed his shoe-in Cabinet Secretary for Justice, MacAskill, as the person to head Scotland’s Justice Department and to initiate the much-needed legal reforms that Scotland’s beleaguered justice system demanded. We knew pretty much from the outset that we were going to be in for more of the same when Salmond and MacAskill appointed Elish Angiolini, who had been at the Scottish Crown Office for many years, as Scotland’s "new" Lord Advocate.

Over these past two years (730 days) many cases of injustice and miscarriages of justice have been highlighted on this excellent Scottish injustice blog (very well done Mr Cherbi!) and these cases have been drawn to the attention of Salmond and MacAskill (and Angiolini), but they have done nothing to intervene, investigate and help those who have approached them with their cases of injustice – many dating back several years and which should have been resolved long before they scraped to power on Friday 4 May 2007.

It is now glaringly obvious that we have a Scottish Government who are in bed with the legal establishment (Law Society, Scottish Crown Office, SCCRC etc) and there are simply far too many vested interests at play for there to ever be any major legal reforms. MacAskill, being a former lawyer, certainly knows where his interests are … and it is not in pursuing the truth and justice for you or me I’m afraid … especially when your case involves exposing criminality, wrong-doing, corruption and injustice with the legal profession, police, local authorities, Law Society, Scottish Crown Office, SCCRC and any other Scottish establishment organisations he is in bed with.

I am apolitical and am not affiliated to any political party, so this is not a vendetta against the SNP. I have no time for any of our politicos at Holyrood or Westmister now and don’t feel any of the 129 at Holyrood are interested or concerned enough about injustice in Scotland … because it doesn’t serve their interests to be too critical and outspoken about injustice at the hands of all the organisations mentioned above, and MacAskill himself of course.

I wish everyone who is pursuing justice for themselves, their friends and their loved ones well and hope that somehow, someday, you all achieve the truth and justice you seek, find some peace of mind and can pick up the fragmented pieces of often ruined and broken lives that Scotland’s corrupt justice system has changed forever.

Shame on Salmond and MacAskill … who will never help you when it comes to injustice in Scotland … too many vested interests at play, and that will always be the case.

__________

Below is an Open Letter to MacAskill that I received the other week. Perhaps you should all consider sending it to MacAskill (highlighting your own cases of injustice as well) to see what reaction you get …

Kenny MacAskill MSP
Cabinet Secretary "for Justice"
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

Kenny.MacAskill.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Dear Mr MacAskill

In the 23 months [two years] since your appointment by Alex Salmond (the First Minister of Scotland) as Cabinet Secretary "for Justice", could you please inform us exactly what good you have done for your constituents of Edinburgh East and Musselburgh who appointed you, and Scotland's 5,000,000 population as a whole?

As far as we have seen you are simply helping and protecting your 10,000 fellow solicitors, the Law Society, legal "profession" as a whole and the Edinburgh and Scottish establishment in general.

Certainly, in the many cases of wrong-doing, corruption and injustice involving local government, the police, YOUR legal "profession" and many other groups and organisations in Scotland, you have done nothing for those "malcontents" who have approached you (often pleading for your help) seeking the TRUTH and JUSTICE in their individual cases of injustice at the hands of corrupt and crooked individuals and organisations you are only too well aware of yourself.

Are you a protector of the Edinburgh and Scottish establishment (especially YOUR legal "profession") and indifferent to the plight of those who approach you with their cases of injustice seeking your help?

Confirm or deny please.

Looking forward to your response.

Anonymous said...

TO THE PERSON WHO POSTED THE COMMENT BELOW,

LIKE YOU WE ARE ALL SOLICITOR BARRED, PLEASE TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS SITE AND SCOTLAND AGAINST CROOKED LAWYERS. PETER CHERBI & SACL ARE DOING A BRILLIANT JOB AND THE MORE OF US WHO ADVISE OUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, ETC THE STRONGER WE BECOME. I AM HANDING COPIES OF PETER'S ARTICLES TO OTHERS.
THE CORRUPTION OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION IS BACKFIRING ON THEM. THEIR MASTERS AT THE LAW SOCIETY & SLCC, SSDT WOULD BE AS WELL PUTTING A MEDAL ON THEIR LAWYERS CHESTS FOR ALL THE PUNISHMENT CROOKED LAWYERS GET. THEIR PUNISHMENTS DEMONSTRATE TO THE PUBLIC THAT KINDNESS TO THE LAWYER IS THE ORDER OF THE DAY.
LAWYERS, FOR EVERY CLIENT YOU ROB, CHEAT, YOU CREATE ANOTHER VICTIM OF INJUSTICE. VICTIMS HAVE A CHANCE AGAINST ORDINARY THIEFS, BUT NOT LAWYER THIEFS, BECAUSE VICTIMS OF LAWYER THIEFS, ARE BLOCKED FROM JUSTICE BY THE VERY PROFESSION WHO WANT TO KEEP SELF REGULATION.

When I see people have been told to read Peter's blog, I know another person have been barred from justice. Lawyers get meagre punishments for stealing clients money, they truly are societies teflon criminals.

Anonymous said...
I was told to read you blog tonight Mr Cherbi.

I have been round 15 firms of solicitors trying to get one to take me on as a client.The case will not surprise you,our ex-solicitor totally ruined the sale of our house and now we face being repossessed by the bank after he told them we couldn't make payment.

Made a complaint to the Law Society and nothing doing and the SLCC will not look at it but if I could get into a court I would be saying plenty about how crooked the Law Society and solicitors are so I hope the McKenzie friend comes to Scotland soon.

I will keep reading your blog for updates.

9:31 PM

Independence can't come quick enough said...

I have to ask this and PLEASE don't be offended anyone.

Why did Which? make such a good letter of support and the Scottish Consumer Council only managed a cat's fart ?

Has the SCC lost its balls after a trip to the vets or something like that ?

Anonymous said...

Hmm I think questions must be answered to why 39years have passed since McKenzie Friend kept out of Scotland ?

Lawyers has not wanting this to happen ?

Anonymous said...

(THIS WAS TAKEN FROM THE SOLICITORS FROM HELL'S WEBSITE. MY COMMENTS IN BRACKETS).

Ross Harper
Sun House
58 west regent street
Glasgow
G2 2QZ

Solicitor :
Cameron Fyfe
0141 33363333

Cameron Fyfe took legal aid payments for 6 yes six years and on the day of the proof it transpired that he had forgotton to tell the defenders in my case i had been sequestrated in 2004.

(NO SURPRISE THERE. THIS LAWYER IS A USEFUL AS A CHOCOLATE FIREGUARD).

So after 8 years of trying to get my case into the court of session edinburgh, the defenders called caution and it was granted £50,000.

(FYFE WHO'S SIDE ARE YOU ON)?

To be able to continue i would have to find that money, i am now representing myself as a party litigant and am horrified at his mistakes. (ARE THEY MISTAKES)? I WOULD LIKE TO TALK TO ALL OF THIS MAN'S CLIENTS. I AM CONVINCED SIMILARITIES WOULD BE PRESENT.


I have the productions in the case i have reported him to the law society (A WASTE OF TIME) and they have done nothing. (THEY ALWAYS DO NOTHING).
This lawyer is Not Recommend.

-----------------------------------

(The above was taken from the Solicitors from Hell Website.
Fyfe was not on my side either. Paid for nothing so you were Fyfe).

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments on this article, and like many of you, I look forward to hearing the results of next Tuesday's Petitions Committee hearing on the McKenzie Friend petition.

Which? are certainly to be congratulated for their support of the Petition, as are Consumer Focus Scotland for their work in the area of legal services and support for the McKenzie Friend facility.

I agree with those who are expressing concern of the lack of reforms involving legal services under the current Scottish Government. This is unacceptable, and proves that having a lawyer as Justice Secretary is definitely not the way to go - even members of the SNP I know well have said the same.

Reforms must be consistent and across the board of issues affecting the public, not more in one area and significantly less in others, as that shows favouritism, or prejudice ... rather than good government.

There will be more to come on the McKenzie Friend issue next week.

Lastly, I note comments have been made on a particular legal firm, which for now I would like more detail on before publishing. Suggestions have been made of legal aid fraud & irregularities, to which I suggest the person making the comment provide me with documentation regarding the legal aid claims and state of their case, which I will in turn pass onto the Legal Aid Board for investigation, which of course I will keep an eye on too.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cherbi your comment @11.51am.

The law firm is on Solicitors from Hell, I noticed this but I do not know the name of the person who left the comment about needing £50,000.00 as the defenders called caution in this case. The person said Ross Harper Solicitors got six years legal aid money, and Mr Fyfe failed to inform the defenders of certain matters. Please check?

Anonymous said...

You should be writing a law column somewhere Mr Cherbi.Brilliant blog and not afraid to speak out.We need more of you!

Statistic said...

Excellent blog, really opened my eyes - I may have missed it, but do you have a link, or contact numder for McKenzie Friend...bit of urgency.

Peter Cherbi said...

Statistic

If you email scottishlawreporter@gmail.com , someome will be able to put you in touch with the McKenzie Friend petitioner.

To all the other comments & emails which have come in on this issue, I am working my way through them and will get back to you all.

In the meanwhile the Scotsman newspaper have reported on the Petition in today's edition, here http://business.scotsman.com/legalissues/Little-help-from-my-friends.5230777.jp

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter.
I've just been reading the Scotsman's version of the McKenzie Friend story.

I wish you all the best of luck for tomorrow's hearing and hope everything goes well,however the questions must be asked why McKenzie Friends have been kept out of Scotland all this time,as you and others are asking.

Our SNP "Government" (and Scottish "Justice") exactly two years on ... said...

Today sees exactly two years to the day (Friday 4 May 2007) since our minority SNP "Government" took control from the Scottish Labour Party's grip on power at the Scottish Parliament ... scraping to power by the skin of their teeth with 47 MSPs - to Scottish Labour's 46.

I'm sure, like me, you all hoped for a new dawn when it came to justice issues and reforms in Scotland, but we were very soon to realise, after Salmond appointed his self-protecting and lawyer-loving friend Kenny MacAskill as his Cabinet Secretary "for Justice" and they in turn appointed Elish Angiolini as our "new" (same old) Lord Advocate, that we were to be in for more of the same when it came to Scottish "Justice".

They have now proved to us beyond any doubt over these past two years that they are indeed the Tartan Tories and the party of big business and the Scottish establishment, only interested in keeping the status quo and their friends in the Scottish legal establishment (Scotland's 10,000 lawyers, the Scottish Law Society, the Scottish Crown Office, the SCCRC, the SLCC etc) very sweet ... and to hell with the rest of us, injustice cases and the TRUTH and JUSTICE for their fellow Scots (and others seeking their help and intervention).

Every single case of injustice and miscarriage of justice highlighted on Peter's excellent injustice blog over these past two years has been drawn to Salmond's and MacAskill's attention, but they have done nothing for anyone approaching them often pleading for their help and intervention.

Was this the "open, honest, fair, just, truthful, transparent, compassionate and caring" new Scottish "Government" that the people of Scotland wanted and voted for on Thursday 3 May 2007? I think not.

Shame on Salmond and MacAskill … who will never help you when it comes to injustice in Scotland … too many vested interests at play, and that will always be the case.

Get rid of them at the earliest opportunity people of Scotland ... for they are indeed the party of and for the Scottish establishment ... and NOT for Scotland's c.5,100,000 ordinary souls ... especially those seeking justice for themselves or their friends and loved ones.

Now, that really would be "Justice For All".