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Entries in party litigant (7)

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. 

Monday
Oct102016

‘Lay Assistant’ free training course to run in Edinburgh in November.

Families Need Fathers Scotland is recruiting for a ‘lay assistant’ free training course to run in Edinburgh in November.

As the number of party litigants appears to be increasing steadily in family law actions FNF Scotland has been aware of the importance of the support and steadying influence a lay assistant can have both in court and before court in keeping focus on the important issues at hand.

FNF Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, says, “We ran a successful pilot course in Glasgow last month, introducing prospective lay assistant volunteers to the role they can play and the support they can give. We are clear that they’re not surrogate solicitors and aren’t there to give legal advice. But they are there to assist the party litigant - and the court - by taking notes of what is said during proceedings and keeping track of any documents that may be referred to during a child welfare hearing or, more crucially, during a proof.

There has been more use of lay assistants in other areas of civil litigation such as debt or housing but we have noticed the increased number of people who are opting to represent themselves in contact and residence cases. They do for a variety of reasons but the main one is that they find their earnings are just above the SLAB threshold but aren't enough to cope with legal fees that can quickly turn into thousands.”

Depending on demand the course will run over two sessions in mid November and includes presentations by FNF Scotland staff and family law solicitors, video simulations and role play. The training is free, funded by the Scottish Government's Volunteering Support Fund. Further courses will be run in Aberdeen and Stirling in early 2017.

Ian Maxwell says, “Our overall aim is a review of family law to reduce the adversarial nature of resolving arrangements for parenting of children after separation. We always advise negotiation or mediation rather than litigation. In the meantime we can’t ignore the rising number of party litigants and this training is aimed at helping them present their case as efficiently and effectively as possible in the interests not only of the court but in the interests of the children involved.

Anyone interest in signing up for the training should contact Alastair Williamson or ring 0131 557 2440.

Thursday
Feb122015

Court training events in Glasgow and Edinburgh

We are holding two training sessions in March for those who are either currently or considering acting as a party litigant or are interested in acting as a lay assistant or lay representative.  Being a party litigant means that you are conducting your own case in court rather than being represented by a lawyer. A Child Welfare Hearing is usually the first court hearing in a case involving contact or residence arrangements for children.

The first session in Glasgow on the 20th of March 2015 is on preparing for a Child Welfare Hearing and will cover topics such as the Drafting of the Initial Writ, Evidence, Legal Correspondence and Alternative Dispute Resolutions. The session aims to provide attendees with a basic understanding of what needs to be prepared and how their case will progress prior to the child welfare hearing itself.

There are 15 places available for the first training event which will be held at 24 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4BG - tickets available here.

The second session is in Edinburgh on the 27th of March 2015, split into three areas,  the Child Welfare Hearing itself, Bar Reports and Proof Hearings. Attendees will get a clearer idea of the purpose of the Child Welfare Hearing and how to present their case adequately including basic advocacy skills.

There are 15 places available for this training session at 10 Palmerston Place, Edinburgh EH12 5AA - tickets available here.

All tickets are free but donations would be appreciated.  These events have been organised by Rebecca Simmonds our student intern.

Party litigants should also see our guide to representing yourself in the Scottish family courts.

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.