Wednesday, August 12, 2009

'Control Freaks' at Law Society say “No” to McKenzie Friends as Holyrood submission signals resistance to Lord Gill's civil justice review

Law Society of ScotlandThe Law Society of Scotland goes the ‘bloody minded route’ and tells Scots Parliament 'not to allow' McKenzie Friends in Scottish courts. The Law Society of Scotland has kicked off the Scottish legal profession's campaign of resistance against some of the recommendations to be made by Lord Gill in his forthcoming civil courts review, by telling the Scottish Parliament that McKenzie Friends should not be allowed in Scotland's courts.

This albeit predictable resistance from the Scottish legal profession to much needed civil law reform, comes despite the fact the facility that having a McKenzie Friend assist party litigants has proved so successful in England & Wales for FORTY years, it has lead to the practice being adopted in many other jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, while being kept out of Scotland for no good or clear reasons.

The shock interference by the Law Society against expanding Scots entitlements of increased access to justice in our courts, flies in the face of the gathering momentum of Petition 1247 which was filed at the Scottish Parliament earlier in May 2009. The Petition, which aims to bring the facility of McKenzie Friends to Scotland's court system some 40 years after their introduction in England & Wales, will allow many Scots who do not have access to legal representation to share the success of thousands of litigants south of the border who since 1970 have used the extremely valuable facility of having an individual known as a "McKenzie Friend" to quietly and competently assist with the presentation of a litigant's court proceedings..

Law Society of Scotland says no to McKenzie FriendsLaw Society of Scotland 'do not see a requirement' for McKenzie Friends in Scotland. The Law Society of Scotland claimed in its submission to the Scottish Parliament's Petitions Committee today, that "The Committee do not see a strong driving requirement for the introduction of a Mackenzie friend facility in the Scottish courts. The current system allows a judge to consider whether or not it is appropriate for a litigant to have the assistance of a lay representative on a case by case basis." The Law Society then went on to grudgingly acknowledge there may be 'some benefit' of McKenzie Friends to court users in Scotland if they can't get a lawyer to take their case on : "There may be some benefit if a litigant cannot get legal aid and cannot afford a solicitor. The Committee acknowledge that Lord Gill (in his review of the civil courts) may make recommendations on the whether or not lay representatives may have a role. The Committee would welcome the opportunity of commenting further on the role of McKenzie friends once the review recommendations are available."

A legal insider who is unhappy with the Law Society's decision to oppose the introduction of McKenzie Friends in Scotland said : "Here we have more bloody mindedness from the control freaks at the Law Society where anything they don’t suggest themselves or is not within their direct control has to be opposed to the bitter end and at huge financial cost.”

He continued : "Why not have McKenzie Friends in Scotland ? They have been used in England & Wales for decades and haven't really impacted on legal business. If someone wants a McKenzie Friend by their side in court then let them have one. If they feel they need the services of a solicitor then they will approach one. The point is the choice should be there and it is not for the Law Society to tell people they can’t choose who they want with them in court."

A spokesman for one of Scotland's consumer organisations today branded the Law Society "greedy" and "bloody minded" over their opposition to the introduction of McKenzie Friends in the Scottish Courts.

She said : "The Law Society's opposition to McKenzie Friends being available to consumers in Scotland is ridiculous. It is laughable to suggest that our present civil justice system allows a judge to consider whether a litigant can have a lay representative assist them in court. There should be formal ground rules to set out court users entitlements rather than simply make a decision on a case by case basis, which is grossly unfair to litigants and the public at large."

She continued : "The Law Society are simply trying to protect their members business market from the threat of competition where if a litigant chooses to use a McKenzie Friend, in all likelihood they wont be hiring expensive legal representation which particularly in Scotland, doesn't always win the day in court as research has already shown."

"If consumers are faced with a choice of spending tens of thousands of pounds on poor quality legal services or hiring a McKenzie Friend for a few hundred pounds to help them present their own case that they know best, then I think you will find that many will choose to do away with their expensive solicitors and go down the McKenzie Friend route if they are confident enough of winning their own case.

Lord GillLaw Society tries to outmanoeuvre Lord Gill's impending civil court review recommendations by blasting McKenzie Friends petition at Holyrood. The opposition of Scotland's legal profession to the introduction of McKenzie Friends in our courts is no surprise to me. I expected as much after hearing the speech of Lord Gill at the Law Society's annual conference, where it was clear from the Lord Justice Clerk's comments that the money honey pot of Scotland's 'Victorian Justice system' model where legal firms have made millions from the complexity and aloof nature of Scotland's civil laws, would have to be significantly reformed. The Law Society of Scotland, basically being the legal profession's 'muscle' which maintains control over the current closed shop legal services market, and in effect, the legal profession's control over an individual's access to justice, cannot afford to allow such reforms, therefore a policy of undermining the proposals before they have been made, was inevitable.

As many have already pointed out, the Law Society of Scotland's attitude towards McKenzie Friends is more based on the fact that law firms & solicitors will lose out financially if consumers choose a McKenzie Friend, rather than throw away tens of thousands of pounds on the third rate legal services we are currently forced to rely on in Scotland. I know many people who would rather be party litigants with the help of a McKenzie Friend, than pay a few thousand pounds to a law firm who will probably string out their case for a few years, with no result at the end of it .. and why not .. why should ordinary Scots not have a choice to select their own legal representatives or legal assistance for their own case, when people in the rest of the UK can do so, and indeed, many other countries around the world ?

Testimony was given to the Petitions Committee earlier in May, by Margo MacDonald MSP, speaking on behalf of the McKenzie Friend Petition, which some readers may wish to remind themselves of by watching here :

Margo MacDonald speaks on the merits of introducing McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s courts.


MacAskill tight lippedMissing the deadline - Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has not decided to respond to the McKenzie Friends petition. While the Law Society of Scotland was not actually asked for their opinion on the introduction of McKenzie Friends, but gave it anyway, the Scottish Courts Service, Consumer Advice Scotland, and the Scottish Government were also asked for their opinions. However, the deadline of 10th August for responses has passed, and so far not even the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has replied to the Petitions Committee, where today enquiries to Mr MacAskill's office were met with curt replies stating : "It is for the Cabinet Secretary to decide whether he wants to respond to this petition.". Mr MacAskill did answer questions from Margo MacDonald during Minister’s question time, back in May, which you can watch, here : Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill replies to questions on McKenzie Friends for Scotland.

Which support McKenzie Friends for ScotlandMajor consumer organisations such as Which? support the introduction of McKenzie Friends for Scotland. While the Justice Secretary has oddly missed the deadline for replies to the McKenzie Friend proposals, there is ample support for the introduction of the invaluable service to Scotland's courts from consumer organisations such as Which?, Consumer Focus Scotland, several individuals and law reform campaigners such as myself, and even the UK's Ministry of Justice. You can view the written submissions to the Scottish Parliament's Petitions Committee on the McKenzie Friend proposals contained in Petition 1247 here : Written submissions for Petition 1247 (McKenzie Friends for Scotland)

Lord HamiltonLord President of the Court of Session Lord Hamilton wanted delay to Parliament's consideration of McKenzie Friend proposals. Those opposed to the idea of rectifying the 40 year disparity between the Scots legal system and English Law, so far only seem to be the legal establishment itself in the form of the Law Society of Scotland, and a slight dithering from the Lord President, Lord Hamilton, who if he can't see that McKenzie Friends are introduced during the past 40 years (or at least during the years of his own tenure as a judge) I don't see any other way to expand Scots access to justice via the route of a McKenzie Friend other than introducing legislation to ensure there are specific rules and entitlements for all court users to avail themselves of the facility of using a McKenzie Friend if they so desire.

The Scottish Court Service and Citizens Advice Scotland were also asked today whether they had planned to reply to the Parliament's Petitions Committee on the issue of McKenzie Friends, however both had not replied by publication of this article.

You can read my earlier articles on the campaign to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland HERE

Please support the ending of 40 years of discrimination for Scots access to justice, and help bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s courts.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes precisely.If lawyers are going to lose money they wont allow it to happen.

Anonymous said...

The Law Society's letter reads like verbal diarrhoea.Couldn't they have come up with something a bit more convincing ?(even if we wouldn't have believed it anyway)

Anonymous said...

No big surprise the LSS want this axed before the idea takes root.
Maybe Lord Gill should take a trip round to Drumsheugh Gdns and bang a few heads ?

Anonymous said...

A MESSAGE FOR THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND. YOU SAID,

"There may be some benefit if a litigant cannot get legal aid and cannot afford a solicitor.

Your Persuers Panel would not help a member of my family who's lawyer was totally corrupt. We wrote to you and got fobbed off because you wanted to protect the crook who paid you £650.00 for his practicing certificate.

McKenzie friends are vital in the Scottish Courts, and we would NEVER TRUST ANY SCOTTISH LAWYER OR YOU PROTECTOR OF LAWYERS EITHER.

You, Law Society do not want McKenzie Friends because your members and you will lose revenue.

More than a decade ago the Law Society of Scotland and my relatives lawyer taught us the hardest lesson in our lives. That is why we will never trust another lawyer, criminals in powerful jobs.

We would trust a lawyer with our case as much as we would trust a paedophile in charge of a creche. Trust is impossible, and that is why the pressure is building to allow people like us access to the courts with a McKenzie Friend. We have HUMAN RIGHTS TOO Law Society, and you want to keep McKenzie Friends out of Scotland so that you can keep the money rolling in.
Some justice the Law Society stands for. We get stung with a crooked lawyer and we get stung again by the Law Society who is meant to help us. It is a justice system for lawyers nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Looks to me like the Law Society are digging a big hole for themselves on this.
Well done and keep up the reporting !

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Douglas Mill's replacement will follow his example and tell the Scottish Parliament to 'take a hike', and for good measure threaten it with legal action under the Human Rights Act.......err, that's the legal profession's Human Rights.

Anonymous said...

A recent application to the Court of Session for a McKenzie's friend was refused, the judge stating that the Court would take a sympathetic view of the matter when it came to Proof.

What person - be they a retired solicitor or qualified legal practitioner from another jurisdiction - is going to agree to prepare a case and attend Court on these vague, uncertain and completely unsatisfactory terms?

What unrepresented party can afford to pay that person's expenses and/or any cancellation fee if the Court decides to refuse their application?

Clearly this perfectly proper entitlement must be enshrined in legislation as a matter of right.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is I am thankful I am not Scottish and don't live in Scotland.
Your justice system is a bloody mess to put it mildly and if this judge has any sense in his review he will suggest bringing back the noose to clear out your 'crooked lawyer' problem.

Good luck mate!

Anonymous said...

and lawyers wonder why they are hated ?

greedy b******s

Anonymous said...

I am a solicitor Mr Cherbie and I am happy to say I have no problems with McKenzie Friends being intro'd to Scotland.

If as your source says someone wants a McKenzie Friend instead of a highly qualified legal agent next to them in court then that is their affair and not ours.

Anonymous said...

Looks to me like the Law Society are digging a big hole for themselves on this. Yes and they should stop digging. We will wait to see if Lord Gill has a civil justice review of a civil review.

Anonymous said...

Fairly obvious that keeping mckenzie friends out of Scotland is down to lawyers losing all their money and the Law Society losing influence or power !

Anonymous said...

"Why not have McKenzie Friends in Scotland ? They have been used in England & Wales for decades and haven't really impacted on legal business. If someone wants a McKenzie Friend by their side in court then let them have one. If they feel they need the services of a solicitor then they will approach one. The point is the choice should be there and it is not for the Law Society to tell people they can't choose who they want with them in court."

Well said but it looks like that is too much common sense for the Law Society to understand.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Douglas Mill's replacement will follow his example and tell the Scottish Parliament to 'take a hike', and for good measure threaten it with legal action under the Human Rights Act.

Well Lorna I do not think you will do this, because Douglas Mill must have thought clients are aliens, he certainly did not think we should have any human rights.

No client in Scotland will have the slightest chance of justice as long as the Law Society of Scotland has it's current level of power. I have dealt with this organisation and it is corrupt from the receptionists to Lorna at the top. A safe home for lawyers so that they keep their jobs, that is all it is.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the Law Society's arrogance will be their undoing and I hope this makes Lord Gill even more determined in his appraisal of Scotland's Victorian & Banana Republic justice system.

Anonymous said...

AOL NEWS

A senior Tory has apologised after he was recorded complaining that MPs were treated like "s***" and forced to exist on "rations".

Alan Duncan, the shadow leader of the Commons, was secretly filmed saying that no capable person would want to enter Parliament in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal. (What you mean Allan is that MP's are angry by the fact it will be harder to screw the expenses system).
===================================
Alan, as a capable person I would stand for parliament but politicians are too dirty for me.

I like many others have lost my job Allan. You should try being one of the 2.4 million unemployed. I will tell you what rations are Alan £128.00 per fortnight. I do not feel ashamed claiming unemployment benefit because I have paid a lot of tax when I was working.

Resign from politics and join the UB40 club, then you will be in a fit position to talk about being "forced to exist on rations".

Anonymous said...

I heard you were at petitions today but I see they helped you overcome the 'logo' difficulties lol

Good work as always.You are fast becoming a legend at you-know-where!

Anonymous said...

The civil justice committee of the Law Society is full of has beens and yes as your source puts it so well "control freaks"

If your readers are interested they can read their reply to Lord Gill's review here :
http://www.lawscot.org.uk/Public_Information/lawreform/2008/Civil_Justice.aspx

Beware of a level of BS approaching astronomical levels.

Keep up the good work Peter.If they felt they had to make an uninvited sub to the Parliament they must be feeling the heat!

Anonymous said...

After all the work Margo put in the Law Society comes along and strikes it all down.
I hope someone goes in there and sinks the whole bloody ship of lawyers we could well do without them.

Anonymous said...

Time the Law Society was carved up (sorry about the pun) and everyone allowed to get on with their lives.

Anonymous said...

A senior Tory has apologised after he was recorded complaining that MPs were treated like "s***"

So Alan Duncan thinks he and his colleagues are treated like s***.

I think the converse is true, politicians have treated taxpayers like S***, and are throwing their dummies out of their prams because they cannot claim for everything the rest of us have to pay for.

Just like lawyers and all other self regulators, who think it is their god given right to treat people any way they want. Then they get upset when the public do something about it.

We want decent people in Parliament Mr Duncan, not parasites who are upset because they cannot steal from the public purse as they used to. I have no doubt you were one of the many politicians who voted to prevent the FOI Act applying to MP's expenses. Perhaps you should look for another job.

Anonymous said...

What happened to Citizens Advice Scotland ? Shouldn't they be harping on about McKenzie Friends and their virtues too ?

I'm surprised they didn't put in a submission because I saw from the Parliament's website they were asked to or cant they be bothered now to do anything about citizens advice ?

Anonymous said...

When Lady Smith was asked for clarification on law from a party litigant she said "I am not here to answer your questions, you are here to answer mine".

I understand Lady Smith's husband is now at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. If this is the case perhaps he is like Lady Smith, in that if he receives a complaint from a member of the public about a crooked lawyer he may not want to answer questions either. People with such attitudes should not be allowed in high office.

I certainly hope Lord Gill has a better attitude to members of the public, who want to have fair hearings without legal professionals patronising them, in a courtroom, which is daunting for people in the first place.

Lord Gill I look forward to your civil justice review.

Anonymous said...

Lady Smith's husband IS AT THE SCOTTISH LEGAL COMPLAINTS COMMISSION ?????

HOW THE HELL DID THAT GET ALLOWED ???

Anonymous said...

Disgusting attitude from the Law Society but as you say Peter they are as predictable as the sun rise.

Good luck for the petition.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a solicitor Mr Cherbie and I am happy to say I have no problems with McKenzie Friends being intro'd to Scotland.

If as your source says someone wants a McKenzie Friend instead of a highly qualified legal agent next to them in court then that is their affair and not ours.

8:29 PM

"Highly qualified" to rip people off and then ruin their lives ?

Presumably all those years at uni and then being a lawyer if you are one has robbed you of your sense of reality and probably just about any sense of decency a human being could have!

Time to get rid of lawyers controlling our right to go to court as Peter says!

Anonymous said...

If everything is this much of a fight in Scotland to get into court then its a wonder there is anyone every gets to court !

The sensible approach would be to change all that but I can see the money & power issue takes precedence for the lawyers once again.

Anonymous said...

The Law Society of Scotland are far too powerful for the good of the public. Their position on McKenzie Friends is no surprise, because they have had things their own way for far too long.

Mr MacAskill, do you think people committing suicide through the intense pressure lawyers put on clients who complain about them is acceptable? If the Master Policy was fair Professor Stephen and Dr Mellville would have obtained the data necessary to show what was happening. Clearly Marsh UK stating documents were commercially sensitive was a cover to hide the fact that the Master Policy is a savings scheme rather than a compensation scheme.

Lawyers in Scotland are backed by insurers who reward them for closing down complaints against lawyers, and consequently protecting Marsh UK Royal & Sun Alliance. If ever a setup was a criminal facade for compensating clients this is it. Mr Pritchard is a mile out, this is as far from the "ultimate in comsumer protection" one can get.
Mr Pritchard needs correcting, the Master Policy is the ultimate in insurer and lawyer protection, and is also a licence for lawyers to treat clients any way they want.

Clients have more legal protection when buying a new washing machine than the Law Society setup provides. Think about this Mr Pritchard, twelve months manufacturers warranty due to the Sale of Goods Act, Law Society warranty to protect clients from crooked lawyers, non existent, a criminal protection racket. Mr MacAskill thinks we owe a great debt to an organisation that is killing people. What is his title? Justice Minister.

Anonymous said...

I hope little Penman is sitting there in his little office proud of all the trouble he caused us!

Anonymous said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8198700.stm

I won't sack Duncan, says Cameron

David Cameron has said he will not sack shadow cabinet member Alan Duncan for saying that MPs are living "on rations" following reforms to their expenses.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQrNNPT-mAw

and

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8199615.stm

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, who has long campaigned for the NHS to be dismantled and replaced with a system of "personal health accounts", has joined in the criticism on US television, where he described it in April as a "60-year mistake".

The mistake would be to vote Conservative is this is what they intend ! Them on private health while its really US who have to go on the damn rations Mr ********* duncan !

Just like lawyers all politicans cannot be trusted EVER!

Anonymous said...

How about someone says "No" to the Law Society for a change ?

I hear they hold dirt on some politicians to stop them voting against their plans.Is that true ?

Anonymous said...

BBC NEWS

Officer guilty of urine tampering.

A Grampian Police officer has been found guilty of diluting his urine sample after being stopped for suspected drink-driving.

Police found lager and a kebab when they stopped Sgt Ewan McHardy, 41, after seeing him driving erratically while off duty in Elgin, Moray.

He later sent his own sample for tests, but discrepancies were found.

McHardy was found guilty after a trial at Elgin Sheriff Court. Sentence was deferred until September for reports.
-----------------------------------
Good on the police for stopping him before someone got injured. It is a pity the lawyers are not of the same mettle, exposing corrupt colleagues and raising the standards in the profession, so that the public can trust lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter.
I have no problems allowing McKenzie Friends into Scotland.It should have occurred years ago as there have been ample cases before the courts for consideration which have all been turned down.
Legislation is probably the way to go for Scotland.

Anonymous said...

I am a solicitor Mr Cherbie and I am happy to say I have no problems with McKenzie Friends being intro'd to Scotland. (GOOD TO READ THIS).

If as your source says someone wants a McKenzie Friend instead of a highly qualified legal agent next to them in court then that is their affair and not ours.

(YES LAWYERS ARE HIGHLY QUALIFIED, THE PROBLEM IS TRUST, CLIENTS CANNOT TRUST YOU OR YOUR COLLEAGUES. IF YOU RUIN MY LIFE, THE LAW SOCIETY WILL ALLOW YOU TO PRACTICE, WHERE IS THE INTEGRITY IN A SYSTEM LIKE THAT?) THE SYSTEM IS TARNISHING ALL OF YOU, BECAUSE IT REWARDS CROOKED LAWYERS, SO THERE IS NO DETERRENT.

Anonymous said...

I have a degree and I worked for it, as many people do. But I do not work in a profession where ripping clients off is the order of the day.

A friend of mine told me he knew a law student who said, "law school teaches students to think differently". Perhaps so, but if this training encourages corrupt attitudes, we need to deal with the problem at student level as well as lawyers. Perhaps that is why Glasgow University employed Douglas Mill, to "teach students to think differently".

Anonymous said...

Please support the ending of 40 years of discrimination for Scots access to justice, and help bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s courts.

Please also end self regulation for all professions.

Anonymous said...

cant we just bypass the law society or get rid of it completely ?

Anonymous said...

A closed shop legal services market keeps lawyers fees artificially high by preventing consumer choice. Many areas of law, house purchase, wills, divorce could be simplified so that less training would be required, and non lawyers could train to do this type of work. This would take work away from the Law Society lawyers, save money and increase the speed at which clients problems were resolved.

Where lawyers are concerned clients are dealing with a gang of criminals who protect each other, spin cases out and have no motivation to win cases, unless the case is no win no fee. In a mixed economy competition gives consumers choice. This will be impossible for lawyers clients as long as there are no alternative to the current system. McKenzie Friends are a start in the right direction and that is what frightens the Law Society of Scotland.

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for your continued comments & emails on the issue of McKenzie Friends for Scotland.

I certainly agree that Scotland's closed shop legal services market must be broken open for the purpose of giving people a choice of legal representatives, while also increasing access to justice.

The Law Society of Scotland however does not believe in that, simply because breaking open the Law Society's monopoly on legal services will break the Law Society itself ... with the end of monopoly and free access to justice, the Law Society becomes just another quango, maintained by its own members at enormous cost, with little productivity other than paying self appointed directors (or dictators) huge salaries for doing very little.

There has been a significant development as per support given to the McKenzie Friend petition, which will be reported tomorrow (Friday).

Anonymous said...

I like your comment Peter about breaking open the legal services market will break the Law Society itself. This must happen because the Law Society crush client justice to maximize profit, and protect lawyers who belong behind bars. At the end of the day they will become victims of their corruption, because legal practitioners cannot be trusted in Scotland.

I urge all my fellow Scots not to trust lawyers. You have a better chance with a McKenzie Friend helping you. Why, because you will have great drive to win your case, something no lawyer will have if he represented you.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

How about someone says "No" to the Law Society for a change ?

I hear they hold dirt on some politicians to stop them voting against their plans.Is that true ?

4:03 PM

With the way these politicians bend over for them I'd say thats a definite YES !

Anonymous said...

BBC NEWS

Officer guilty of urine tampering.

This is called perverting the course of justice. An officer drink driving then attempting to cover this up. He seems to have the same values as the Law Society of Scotland.