Monday, August 24, 2009

McKenzie Friend Petition: Recent Submissions

The Scottish Parliament's Petition Committee has recently received submissions for Petition 1247 from Consumer Focus Scotland, the Civil Justice Committee of the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and Ian Hanger QC (the original McKenzie Friend) for Petition 1247. Petition 1247, coincidentally by Stewart Mackenzie,   calls for the introduction of a McKenzie Friend facility in the Scottish Courts. A McKenzie Friend being someone in England & Wales (and some other jurisdictions) who provides a litigant in person with support, covering tasks such as taking notes, providing moral support and giving them advice as to how to pursue the case. This can include giving advice in court, for example in terms of questions to ask or procedures to be followed.

The Civil Justice Committee of the Law Society of Scotland said it does not see a 'strong driving requirement' for the introduction of a Mackenzie friend facility in the Scottish courts as 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.

Ian Hanger QC, writes the Australian experience has been that it has worked successfully and urges the Scottish Parliament to permit the appearance of the McKenzie Friend. He also states that McKenzie Friends should not be entitled to charge any fee for services and to do so, in Australia, would be breaching the Legal Services Acts. This certainly is not the case in England & Wales where some McKenzie Friends do charge a fee.


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