Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2011 dawns with success for Consumer Focus Scotland, Which?, campaigners & media as McKenzie Friends now available in Scotland’s Sheriff Courts

Consumer Focus Scotland logoScotland’s Consumer champion, Consumer Focus Scotland welcomes new rules on ‘McKenzie Friends’. CONSUMER FOCUS SCOTLAND have welcomed the introduction of rules on January 1 2011 clarifying the use of McKenzie Friends, or Lay Assistants in Scotland’s Sheriff Courts, finally enabling all party litigants in all Scottish courts who cannot afford or cannot obtain the services of a solicitor, to instead take along an individual of their choosing to assist their representation of their own case, a right in Scotland only enjoyed up to now by party litigants in Scotland’s Court of Session since June 2010.

McKenzie Friends for ScotlandMcKenzie Friends campaign brought together litigants, judges, consumer organisations, campaign groups, international lawyers & the media. The Court of Session’s introduction in June 2010 of the right to use McKenzie Friends in Scotland’s Highest Court only came about after a long campaign by various consumer organisations, a two year long investigation of Scotland’s Civil Justice System & recommendations from Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill contained in the Civil Courts Review, a November 2009 Court of Session ruling, work by many campaigners, and support from the original McKenzie Friend himself, Ian Hanger QC, all of which was reported right here on Diary of Injustice and in the media, eventually leading to the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s justice system some forty years after England & Wales first introduced McKenzie Friends in 1970.

Consumer Focus Scotland announced in their Press Release : The court rules governing the use of McKenzie Friends came about following a long campaign by various organisations and individuals committed to the reform of civil justice in Scotland, including Consumer Focus Scotland.

Research conducted by Consumer Focus Scotland and the Scottish Legal Aid Board into The Views and Experiences of Sheriff Civil Court Users found that those who were unrepresented were particularly likely to be concerned about having to stand up in court on their own to address the sheriff and not being able to understand the language being used by the sheriff and other legal professionals.

The research suggests that unrepresented litigants might benefit from the opportunity to have a McKenzie Friend with them in court, who could provide them with moral support and other appropriate assistance. By helping the litigant to present their case better there are also potential benefits for the court and the other party involved in the court action.

Gemma Crompton, Senior Policy Advocate on Legal Services for Consumer Focus Scotland, said : “It has long been our view that McKenzie Friends offer valuable support to unrepresented parties in court. They are a consumer-friendly way of allowing court users to feel more confident and better supported, making the experience of going to court less daunting. We are delighted that users of the civil justice system in Scotland now have clarity on the use of McKenzie Friends within the sheriff court, as well as the functions they are able to perform.”

Ms Cromnpton continued : “However, as with any new rules it will be crucial for the courts to make users aware that they are able to bring along someone to provide them with such support. It will also be important for these new arrangements to be monitored to determine how effective they are and to ensure that they are meeting the needs of users of the civil justice system in Scotland.”

The rules clarifying the use of McKenzie Friends across Scotland’s Sheriff Courts are contained in the Act of Sederunt (Sheriff Court Rules) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 2) 2010 although earlier hopes the Sheriff Courts would break from some of the stringent conditions imposed on the use of McKenzie Friends in the Court of Session have been dashed, and also, notably, any expenses incurred as a result of using a McKenzie Friend are not recoverable, at least for now.

The Sheriff Court rules, spread across the court process of Ordinary Cause, Summary Cause, Summary Application, & Small Claim Rules in the Act of Sederunt (Sheriff Court Rules) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 2) 2010 read as follows :

“Lay support :

2.2—(1) At any time during proceedings the sheriff may, on the request of a party litigant, permit a named individual to assist the litigant in the conduct of the proceedings by sitting beside or behind (as the litigant chooses) the litigant at hearings in court or in chambers and doing such of the following for the litigant as he or she requires—

(a)providing moral support; (b)helping to manage the court documents and other papers; (c)taking notes of the proceedings; (d)quietly advising on— (i)points of law and procedure; (ii)issues which the litigant might wish to raise with the sheriff; (iii)questions which the litigant might wish to ask witnesses.

(2) It is a condition of such permission that the named individual does not receive from the litigant, whether directly or indirectly, any remuneration for his or her assistance.

(3) The sheriff may refuse a request under paragraph (1) only if— (a)the sheriff is of the opinion that the named individual is an unsuitable person to act in that capacity (whether generally or in the proceedings concerned); or (b)the sheriff is of the opinion that it would be contrary to the efficient administration of justice to grant it.

(4) Permission granted under paragraph (1) endures until the proceedings finish or it is withdrawn under paragraph (5); but it is not effective during any period when the litigant is represented.

(5) The sheriff may, of his or her own accord or on the incidental application of a party to the proceedings, withdraw permission granted under paragraph (1); but the sheriff must first be of the opinion that it would be contrary to the efficient administration of justice for the permission to continue.

(6) Where permission has been granted under paragraph (1), the litigant may— (a)show the named individual any document (including a court document); or (b)impart to the named individual any information, which is in his or her possession in connection with the proceedings without being taken to contravene any prohibition or restriction on the disclosure of the document or the information; but the named individual is then to be taken to be subject to any such prohibition or restriction as if he or she were the litigant.

(7) Any expenses incurred by the litigant as a result of the support of an individual under paragraph (1) are not recoverable expenses in the proceedings.”.

So, what are you waiting for ? Cant find a lawyer who will represent your case or honestly handle your legal affairs in court because maybe the case involves litigation against a law firm, a lawyer or perhaps the legal profession feel your case or your right of access to justice is not in their own best interests to pursue ?

You could potentially save tens of thousands of pounds by using a McKenzie Friend instead of costly law firms who may be more interested in stringing you along for a few fee demands rather than swiftly progressing your litigation through the court. If you do choose to use a McKenzie Friend, and want your case reported in the media, something which may well benefit your case or others who may wish to use a McKenzie Friend instead of a lawyer, do drop me or one of the team a line at scottishlawreporters@gmail.com with details of your case and how you are being treated in the court.

You may also wish to show your gratitude to Consumer Focus Scotland for all their work later this year by making your opinions on their championing of consumer issues affecting Scots when the Coalition Government at Westminster launch a consultation over their very anti-consumer decision to scrap Consumer Focus. I will report more on the consultation when it is announced, and hope many of my readers will lodge submissions asking for the retention of Scotland’s Consumer Champion at a time when their services are needed even more.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well done and welcome to 2011!
Hope its good for you!

Nomine said...

What an excellent development and opportunity for all ordinary folk who are up against the power of the court system, too long have the people of Scotland been unable to have friendly counsel at their side.
Thank you for this posting!

Anonymous said...

The over emphasis on the lack of recovery of expenses & McKenzie Friends not being able to be paid tells us the justice system in Scotland is still far from fair or honest.

Anonymous said...

Great start to 2011 Peter, all the best to your family and your team. Those actors who are meant to represent us, shape policy to favour their interests. I have already written to Cameron about the cuts affecting consumer groups.

Back to these lawyers, they are people, why should they have the protection of their colleagues? I do not like the Mr Mills of the Law Society. But I hope they have a good year on a personal basis, but self regulation must end. In terms of a profession they are just human beings, nothing special. Their power that manifests itself in poor legal service and coverups is possible because of self regulation. MSP's end it in 2011.

Ending self regulation has upset those at Westminster, I did not hear them complaining before the expenses scandal.

Justice will never be served by putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Self regulation = self protection.

Anonymous said...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Govan Law Centre accuses Scottish Legal Aid Board of denying access to justice in bank charges case Sharp v Bank of Scotland. WAIT A MINUTE, GOVAN LAW CENTRE WHAT ABOUT THOSE CITIZENS WHO CANNOT GET LAWYERS TO SUE LAWYERS?

The Govan Law Centre has today accused the Scottish Legal Aid Board of denying access to justice to one of its clients in a bank charges case after SLAB refused for a second time (after an internal appeal) to fund the case (Sharp v Bank of Scotland) with civil legal aid. The Govan Law Centre (GLC) is further reported to have said SLAB may face a court challenge over their refusal to grant legal aid. GOVAN LAW SOCIETY, TAKE THE LAW SOCIETY TO COURT FOR TYRANNY. JUSTICE IS NEVER UNIVERSAL, LAWYERS PROTECT THEIR OWN.

Anonymous said...

will be interesting to see how these cases turn out so keep writing about it and make sure the courts know you are watching them!

Anonymous said...

"The Court of Session’s introduction in June 2010 of the right to use McKenzie Friends in Scotland’s Highest Court only came about after a long campaign by various consumer organisations, a two year long investigation of Scotland’s Civil Justice System & recommendations from Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill contained in the Civil Courts Review, a November 2009 Court of Session ruling, work by many campaigners, and support from the original McKenzie Friend himself, Ian Hanger QC, all of which was reported right here on Diary of Injustice and in the media, eventually leading to the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s justice system some forty years after England & Wales first introduced McKenzie Friends in 1970."

Yet the English managed it in one hearing in a divorce case 40 years ago.

What does this tell us about the Scottish legal system ?

I'd say we are long overdue for change and Lord Gill knows it very well.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be an awful lot of strings attached to having a McKenzie Friend almost to the point you might be led to think the judges and lawyers dont want anyone able to use one!

Anonymous said...

BBC NEWS

6 January 2011 Last updated at 03:58

Freedom of Information could cover hundreds more bodies
National Archives Mr Clegg will say information is still being "hoarded by the few"
Continue reading the main story
Related stories

Clegg promises 'power revolution'
New 20-year rule on secret papers
UK secrecy laws facing shake-up. END SELF REGULATION TOO.

Hundreds more organisations could be made subject to Freedom of Information laws, Deputy PM Nick Clegg is to say. TELL MACASKILL FOI MUST APPLY TO THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND.

The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Ucas universities admissions service are among bodies set to be included in the FOI Act. THE POLICE, WHY NOT THE LAW SOCIETY MACASKILL, SOMETHING TO HIDE PERHAPS?

He will also confirm that the process of cutting the "30-year rule" for secret government papers to 20 years will begin in 2013.

A cut in the 30-year rule was backed by the previous Labour government.

Mr Clegg will pledge to "restore British freedoms" in his speech on Friday, as part of "our wider project to resettle the relationship between people and government".

IF MP's ARE SUBJECT TO FOI, WHY NOT THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND? RESIGN FOR PROTECTING LAWYERS MACASKILL.

Anonymous said...

Well done all concerned and of course yourself for writing about it!
I'll add something to this consultation about consumer focus when the time comes.

Anonymous said...

A primary school playground monitor sacked after telling a couple how their seven-year-old daughter had been tied to a fence and hit with a skipping rope by other children has won her claim for unfair dismissal, a union said.

Carol Hill, who is in her early 60s and comes from Great Tey, Essex, was suspended from Great Tey Primary School following the incident in June 2009, an employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, heard in November 2010.

She told a local newspaper of her suspension and was then dismissed by governors the following September.

MRS HILL ACTED CORRECTLY, BUT IF SHE HAD WORKED FOR THE SCOTTISH LEGAL COMPLAINTS COMMISSION AND HAD DONE THE SAME SHE WOULD HAVE HAD HER LIFE RUINED.

END SELF REGULATION

Anonymous said...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Govan Law Centre accuses Scottish Legal Aid Board of denying access to justice in bank charges case Sharp v Bank of Scotland. WAIT A MINUTE, GOVAN LAW CENTRE WHAT ABOUT THOSE CITIZENS WHO CANNOT GET LAWYERS TO SUE LAWYERS?

WOULD YOU TAKE DOUGLAS MILL TO COURT OR ANDREW PENMAN? MR CHERBI'S LEGAL AID WAS STOPPED. ANYTHING THAT THREATENS LAWYERS OR THEIR INSURERS, YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW.

Anonymous said...

Nomine said...

What an excellent development and opportunity for all ordinary folk who are up against the power of the court system, too long have the people of Scotland been unable to have friendly counsel at their side.
Thank you for this posting!

5 January 2011 23:15

AGREED !! AND ITS LONG OVERDUE IN THIS BANANA REPUBLIC JUSTICE SYSTEM OF SCOTLAND !!

Anonymous said...

I dont see any statement from the Justice Department although I wonder what they would have said ?

Something like "Oh well its only taken us 41 years to do it so you should all be grateful etc"

and of course no thought for anyone who missed out on justice because the courts kept McKenzie Friends out of Scotland for 41 years.

41 years everyone - this is what Scottish justice is all about - keeping people out of courts unless they agree to hand over every penny they have to some shark of a lawyer who will then ruin them anyway and all these Sheriffs are getting over £100,000 a year and the chief judge Hamilton is getting over £200,000 a year on top of the £150MILLION thrown at legal aid which all goes right back to lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Yes its good to have someone like Peter keeping an eye on these things and writing it up as it is rather than some smart arsed lawyer ramming it down our throats how great he/she supposedly is not mentioning the fact they have probably ripped off plenty clients to fund various expensive habits some of the white powder up the nose variety.

If I ever need to go to court I will take up your offer of saving a bundle by using a McKenzie Friend and letting you know how I get on.

Anonymous said...

The chief judge Hamilton is getting over £200,000 a year cannot be solicitor barred through lawyer loyalties. Try £60.00 a week Arthur to live on because a Glasgow lawyer and South Lanarkshire GP covered up my injuries, you know how it works.

You are immune from the sharp end of your professions corruption. No client has an honest lawyer, the latter do not exist.

Anonymous said...

Dissident websites exist because the Law Society consistently fail to protect the public.

The reputation of honest lawyers (if they) exist has been damaged too.

Dissent renews politics, it will with the lawyers too.

Anonymous said...

"I gave up practising because I realised that the majority of solicitors I dealt with are dishonest. Even if they are negligent you never win. They will forge attendance notes and cover their backs. My firm's senior partner cracked open a bottle of champagne when his best client died, knowing he could make a fortune from the probate work"

Retired solicitor from Cambridge.

I agree with this solicitor. Is it wise to trust members of a profession with your health and the money you worked for when other lawyers deal with complaints?

I would never trust them, if your are wise you will not trust them either.