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Entries in McKenzie Friend (4)

Thursday
Jul132017

New powers for lay representatives in Scottish courts

Scottish court rules have just been changed to enable lay representatives to do all the things a legal representative could do during a court hearing.  Lay representatives have been allowed to address the court on behalf of a person who is not legally represented (party litigant) since previous rule changeS in 2012 (Court of Session) and 2013 (Sheriff Court).  They are now allowed to conduct all aspects of the case including examination and cross examination, as long as the sheriff or judge is satisfied that this will be "in the interests of justice".

A lay representative in the Sheriff Court has to present a form 1A.2 with various declarations on the date of first hearing, whereas in the Court of Session a lay representative has to submit a motion accompanied by a form 12b.2 with declarations. 

Lay representatives are not allowed receive any remuneration for their work, unlike Mckenzie Friends in Northern Ireland who are allowed to be paid fees by litigants  "for the provision of reasonable assistance in court or out of court by, for instance, carrying out clerical or mechanical activities, such as photocopying documents, preparing bundles, delivering documents to opposing parties or the court, or the provision of legal advice in connection with court proceedings. Such fees cannot be lawfully recovered from the opposing party." (NI Court Practice Note)

This recent Scottish rule change means that lay representatives have far wider powers to address the court than Mckenzie Friends in courts in other parts of the UK. 

Wednesday
Mar132013

Lay representatives get a voice in Sheriff courts from April

New Sheriff Court rules allowing an accompanying person to speak on behalf of someone who is representing him or herself in court come into force on April 4th 2013

This change, which has already been made ace in the Court of Session, brings Scotland closer to the "Mckenzie Friend" arrangement which has been possible in the English courts for many years. 

It doesn't mean that non-lawyers will have unrestricted scope to act in court, but it will help in situations where people representing themselves (party litigants) find it difficult to speak up because of lack of confidence, strong emotions,  lack of understanding of the court process/terminology or other reasons.

The lay representative will have to ask the Sheriff's permission at the start of the hearing and sign a form.  They will be allowed to attend family court hearings which are closed to the public, but have to agree to keep the details of the case and court papers confidential.  They cannot accept any payment for carrying out this function.

Sheriffs will only grant the request if they consider that it would assist their consideration of the case, and other parties to the case can raise objections.

Families Need Fathers Scotland will monitor how this change operates in the Sheriff Courts.  We will write to all Sheriff Principals asking for consideration of the sort of issues which we know already occur in English courts with Mckenzie Friends. 

When the Sheriff Court rules changed to allow lay assistants, we came across Sheriffs who were not aware of this change, so we will stress the importance of all courts and all Sheriffs understanding the new arrangements from the outset. 

We still recommend people to have a lawyer with them in court if they can, but welcome this change which will help some of people who cannot afford a lawyer or are not represented for other reasons.

Our "Guide to Representing Yourself in the Scottish Family Courts" will be revised shortly to include these changes.

Monday
Jul232012

Lay assistants get rights to speak in court

  Lay assistants who accompany people who represent themselves in Scottish courts gained new rights in July when the Court of Session adopted rules introduced by the Legal Services Act allowing lay assistants to address the court. 

This will not give lay assistants the right to cross-examine witnesses at a proof hearing, but it does add significantly to their existing role.  Until now, they have been limited to helping with court papers, taking notes and giving whispered advice to the person who is conducting his or her own case.

Due to continuing debate about other aspects of these changes, the Sheriff Court rules have not yet been modified to include thsi change. 

As the necessary legislation has already been enacted, Families Need Fathers Scotland has asked whether it would be unjust to refuse a lay assistant in the Sheriff Court the right to address the court, and we would be keen to hear from anyone who has been affected by this delay.

Lay assistants are sometimes referred to as "McKenzie Friends" because the original English court case concerned a divorce action by a Mr McKenzie who found himself without a lawyer due to withdrawal of legal aid. Our Guide To Representing Yourself in the Scottish Court gives further details of the Scottish system.

Thursday
Jun022011

New DIY guide to Scottish Family Courts 

FNF Scotland has published a new Guide for Party Litigants and Lay Assistants to help applicants for contact or residence understand the relevant law and court procedures.

Families Need Fathers Scotland always suggest negotiation or mediation is preferable to going to court.

Sometimes, unfortunately, it can't be avoided. Increasingly we are seeing more party litigants representing themselves either because of the cost of going to court or the scarcity of family law solicitors willing to take on legal aid cases.

The Guide should also be of assistance to fathers who do have legal representation to understand the procedures and be better equipped to draw up a constructive strategy with their solicitor.

Representing yourself in a Scottish Family Court - a guide for party litigants in child contact cases is available to download from this site.  FNF Scotland welcomes comments and notes of personal experience for inclusion in this guide.