Wednesday, August 18, 2010

McKenzie Friends ‘on the way’ to Scotland’s Sheriff Courts, application procedure to be ‘less formal’ than Court of Session

McKenzie Friends for ScotlandMcKenzie Friends will soon appear to assist party litigants in Scotland’s Sheriff Courts. SHERIFF COURTS across Scotland are on the way to formalising the arrangements for unrepresented party litigants to obtain the services of a McKenzie Friend, the usually non-lawyer lay courtroom helpers which have provided invaluable assistance to thousands of party litigants in the English court system for the past forty years, after the Sheriff Court Rules Council let it be known their work on the issue is at draft stage, hopefully soon to be concluded.

A spokesman for the Sheriff Court Rules Council on being asked about the developments to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s Sheriff Courts after I had reported earlier on the Sheriff Court Rules Council’s consideration of the issue, said yesterday : “I can confirm that the Sheriff Court Rules Council considered draft rules for the use of a McKenzie Friend in civil proceedings in the sheriff court at its meeting on 6 August.“

He continued : “The Council agreed with the recommendation of its working group that a different approach to that of the Court of Session was necessary namely that the procedure involved should be less formal with no certification as regards the suitability of the individual which the party litigant wishes to assist in the conduct of the proceedings being required. I should advise you also that the draft rules require some amendment so they are still under consideration by the Council.”

Hamilton & MacAskillLord Hamilton & Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill were caught out by speed & widespread support of Holyrood McKenzie Friends Petition. The Sheriff Court Rules Council’s consideration of the McKenzie Friend question, follows the implementation of McKenzie Friends in Scotland’s Highest court, the Court of Session after Scotland’s Chief Judge, the Lord President, Lord Hamilton, and the Scottish Government were caught on the hop when a public petition (Petition 1247) was filed at the Scottish Parliament by Stewart MacKenzie, asking Holyrood’s Petitions Committee to address the 40 year exclusion of McKenzie Friends in Scotland’s courts. Video footage of the Scottish Parliament’s hearings on Petition 1247 can be viewed online at InjusticeTV.

Lord GillLord Gill proposed McKenzie Friends in Civil Courts review. Progress to finally bring lay assistants to Scotland’s civil courts was helped considerably by McKenzie Friends being recommended by Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill who had spent considerable time on the issue of lay representation as part of the two year Civil Courts Review. Lord Gill had also recommended a ‘super McKenzie Friend’ with a right of audience, enabling a lay assistant to address the court on behalf of party litigants, a proposal now part of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, which I recently reported here : McKenzie Friends from today in Court of Session, Lord Gill’s ‘super’ McKenzie Friend with rights of audience proposal goes to Holyrood

Lord WoolmanCourt of Session judge Lord Woolman granted Scotland’s first civil law McKenzie Friend in late 2009. Not long after Lord Gill’s report on civil law reforms was published, a decision in what appears to be Scotland’s longest running civil claims action, now in its f o u r t e e n t h year, M.Wilson v North Lanarkshire Council & Others (A1628/01), overtook events at Holyrood and introduced Scotland’s first civil law McKenzie Friend in the Court of Session, granted by Lord Woolman, making the decision to introduce McKenzie Friends to general use in the Court of Session and lower Sheriff Courts, a formality, albeit a decision taking the best part of a year to complete.

Law Society & faculty of advocatesLaw Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates initially objected to Holyrood Petition bringing McKenzie Friends to Scottish Courts. The exclusion of McKenzie Friends from Scottish Courts has been attributed by many seasoned law reform campaigners, several politicians and even some insiders within the legal profession to the lobbying power of the Law Society of Scotland, who, along with the Faculty of Advocates, initially opposed calls to introduce the internationally acclaimed lay courtroom helper to Scotland’s courts, over fears consumers would turn to McKenzie Friends to save themselves the notoriously unjustifiably huge solicitor’s fees which are typical of even the simplest court actions in Scotland, a well known obstacle to justice which has excluded many members of the public from gaining access to Scotland’s courts over the past four decades.

However, while the legal profession have traditionally viewed themselves as the providers of access to justice to Scots, the fact is the legal profession are simply a multi billion pound business, who for many years have themselves monopolised Scots access to the court system & access to legal services, in effect, selecting who among Scotland’s population had access to justice, while excluding those who the Law Society decided should not be allowed near a court. Many know this to be true, as do many of Scotland’s highest judges. There are thousands of examples a year to support this view, with a trail of people left out in the cold by the legal profession who as a whole have little regard for the rights of individuals unless there is a huge amount of money to be made from their predicament.

Placing the interests of what is nothing more than a business above the rights of Scots to enjoy unfettered access to justice, is wholly wrong, and for this reason, many consumer groups across the UK backed the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s courts, to increase Scottish consumer’s access to justice.

A senior official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations today welcomed the developments from the Sheriff Court Rules Council, expressing hope the Scottish Court Service would offer written guidance in all of Scotland’s Sheriff Courts to assist members of the public on the issue, allowing informed choices to be made on using McKenzie Friends in cases which may benefit consumers & the interests of justice considerably by the use of lay assistants in many common types of cases which currently fall victim to unscrupulous solicitors who unnecessarily complicate even the simplest of Sheriff Court cases to ensure larger fees for their little input.

However, a Scottish Parliament insider said he was slightly disappointed the Sheriff Court Rules Council had not been able to proceed the matter at a faster pace, as the Petitions Committee was due to hear Petition 1247 in September and had hoped to report the availability of McKenzie Friends in all of Scotland’s courts, bringing the Committee’s consideration of the issue to a successful conclusion.

You can read my earlier coverage of the campaign to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland, here : McKenzie Friends for Scotland : The story so far

All written submissions for the McKenzie Friend petition at the Scottish Parliament can be read here : Written submissions for Petition 1247, McKenzie Friends for Scotland

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

These 'delays' are self serving to the legal profession who fear they will end up losing out financially.
Given the Court of Session has already allowed McKenzie Friends why must there be more delay on bring them into Sheriff Courts.

Anonymous said...

Anyone might think we Scots live in a banana republic!

Anonymous said...

The wholly discredited legal profession of Scotland, and its Union the Law Society of Scotland, is the reason why McKenzie Friends have gained widespread support.

Now they have to answer the question they have been assiduously avoiding;

Why was the Scottish Public made to wait nearly 40 years for it introduced when it had been operating perfectly well in other parts of the UK?

Anonymous said...

"However, a Scottish Parliament insider said he was slightly disappointed the Sheriff Court Rules Council had not been able to proceed the matter at a faster pace, as the Petitions Committee was due to hear Petition 1247 in September and had hoped to report the availability of McKenzie Friends in all of Scotland’s courts, bringing the Committee’s consideration of the issue to a successful conclusion."

SO ? TELL THEM TO GET A BLOODY MOVE ON ! YOU LOT ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE PARLIAMENT !

Anonymous said...

The fear of lawyers having empty pockets probably kept this out of reach for all this time and as you say everyone knows this is the case its just that all those in high places are either too cowardly to speak out or they benefit in some way financially from the billions spent on legal work by the public.

Its a wonder the Law Society havent raised a court action forbidding McKenzie Friends because their members wont be able to select who gets to court !

Anonymous said...

However, while the legal profession have traditionally viewed themselves as the providers of access to justice to Scots, the fact is the legal profession are simply a multi billion pound business, who for many years have themselves monopolised Scots access to the court system & access to legal services, in effect, selecting who among Scotland’s population had access to justice, while excluding those who the Law Society decided should not be allowed near a court.

Spot on Peter, lawyers will only help people if they or their colleagues are not at risk. Selective Justice and Selective Injustice.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a recipe for disaster if you ask me.They should stick to the Court of Session's requirements otherwise every Tom Dick & Harry will end up ruining it for the rest.

Anonymous said...

This is alot of fuss over nothing and nothing for either yourself or Mr McKenzie to take credit for. I've acted as a lay helper on several occasions for friends without any objection from any Sheriff I've appeared before.

When I've seen Sheriff's reject the appearance of a lay helper it was perfectly obvious to everyone why that decision was taken.

Anonymous said...

I hope your consumer friendly organisations print out some material to publicise this as I dont think the courts or lawyers will want too many people to realise they can actually do their own cases and skip the £000's lawyers charge for doing sod all

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 14:30

A good question .. one would have thought the Sheriff Courts could have moved at the same speed as the Lord President ...

# Anonymous @ 14:45

As far as the legal system goes, we do ...

# Anonymous @ 15:12

Both the Parliament & Lord President have so far managed to avoid asking or answering that particular question ... I wouldn't expect an answer to it from anyone in a position of responsibility within the courts system ...

# Anonymous @ 15:20

Good point ...

# Anonymous @ 15:58

The Law Society have thrown plenty obstacles in the path of McKenzie Friends in Scotland so far ... I'm sure they will be operating in the background trying to bring the new lay representation system into disrepute .. its what they do best ... undermine anything which is a threat to their position & influence ...

# Anonymous @ 16:43

Yes ...

# Anonymous @ 17:17

I must admit I am surprised the Sheriff Court Rules Council is considering such a less formal approach ... I'm sure its for a reason though although whether that reason is to everyone's mutual benefit is something yet to be tested ...

# Anonymous @ 18:02

... and you are so proud of what you did you cant even use your real name or post case references to support your claims ...

I know a retired advocate who asked to sit in as a lay helper in a Sheriff Court hearing if that is of any help to you ... he was refused.

# Anonymous @ 18:41

Its already in the works I'm told ...

Anonymous said...

The judges and the Law Society seem to believe we are all daft but its easy to see this is all about money and customers the lawyers dont want to lose to McKenzie Friends

Anonymous said...

18:02

Sounds like you are jealous of a success not won by the legal profession.

If lay helpers have aye been then why are the sheriff court rules council having to consider it only after their boss Lord Hamilton passes a law allowing them in the court of session ?

Anonymous said...

Lawyers want and get too much to themselves.Someone needs to put a stop to them.
McKenzie Friends will give them something to remember.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to you Peter!
Your constant writing about the issue has helped McKenzie Friends become a reality for Scotland.A real public service you did!
Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

This is alot of fuss over nothing and nothing for either yourself or Mr McKenzie to take credit for. I've acted as a lay helper on several occasions for friends without any objection from any Sheriff I've appeared before.

When I've seen Sheriff's reject the appearance of a lay helper it was perfectly obvious to everyone why that decision was taken.

18 August 2010 18:02"

Are you bitter & twisted or just plain envious of Mr MacKenzie/Mr Cherbi's coverage ?

Whichever it is you sound just like a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone might think we Scots live in a banana republic!"

14 years kept waiting for a decision in a civil claims case proves we do!

Anonymous said...

Why was Scotland made to wait 40 years for McKenzie Friends ?

Answer - because lawyers wanted to line their pockets as much as possible

Anonymous said...

The judges could have allowed McKenzie Friends years ago instead of waiting on one of their colleagues to do his civil law review.

Scotland's justice system is just as bad as banana republics as Hans Koeckler said.

Anonymous said...

The Law Society are like their membership unaccountable criminals.
Noone has a lawyer friend, self regulators, self protecting thieves.

Anonymous said...

Justice delayed, is justice denied.

Anonymous said...

http://www.solicitorsfromhell.co.uk/index.php?listing=SCOTTISH%20LEGAL%20COMPLAINTS%20COMMISSION&option=com_directory&page=viewListing&lid=1617&Itemid=


The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) receives all complaints about legal practitioners in Scotland.

We operate independently of the legal profession and are impartial and accessible.

THE QUESTION THAT SPRINGS TO MIND IS HOW CAN THIS QUANGO BE INDEPENDENT IF IT HAS LAWYERS EMPLOYED THERE.

THE MASSIVE DISSENT ON MANY WEBSITES IN THE WESTERN WORLD ARE AN INDICATION THAT SELF REGULATION DOES NOT WORK.

SCOTLAND AGAINST CROOKED LAWYERS HAVE PICTURES OF CROOKED LAWYERS ON THEIR WEBSITE www.sacl/info

BEWARE OF ALL SELF REGULATORS, BECAUSE IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS DOCTORS PROTECT DOCTORS, AND LAWYERS PROTECT LAWYERS ETC.

SELF REGULATION IS THE REASON WHY SOLICITORS FROM HELL EXISTS, BECAUSE IF COMPLAINTS WERE DEALT WITH FAIRLY INTERNET BASED DISSIDENTS WOULD NEVER HAVE STARTED THEIR PRESSURE GROUPS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
=================================
How have the (Independent) Scottish Legal Complaints Commission treated you, let Peter and Solicitors from Hell know.

Anonymous said...

Good work Peter - keep at them and make sure you get them to admit why its taken 40 years !

Anonymous said...

Good old jealousy rears its head from the legal profession who dont want McKenzie Friends anywhere near the public

Anonymous said...

Finally I got an admission from Aberdeen Sheriff court McKenzie Friends DO EXIST IN SCOTLAND!! but only after telling them I read the Lord Hamilton's letter on your blog!

Anonymous said...

I was looking through the Sheriff Court Rules Council website - they dont appear to have posted any recent minutes where McKenzie Friends were discussed.