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Scottish Parliament asks Lord Hamilton & Justice Secretary MacAskill : ‘Do you support McKenzie Friends for Scotland’ ?

21 Oct

Lord Hamilton 2Lord President Lord Hamilton. The Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee has written to Scotland’s Chief Judge Lord Hamilton, the Lord President, and the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, asking them both if they support the introduction of McKenzie Friends for Scotland, some forty years after McKenzie Friends were first introduced to the UK Courts of England & Wales.

Asst Clerk to Lord President Court of Session on McKenzie Friends PetitionLord Hamilton asked if the Court of Session supports McKenzie Friends. Holyrood’s Petitions Committee recently considered Petition 1247 (McKenzie Friends for Scotland) and concluded the next step forward would be to ask the Lord President outright what his position is on the issue of McKenzie Friends. The Petitions Committee writes : “The purpose of this letter is to seek a written response to the following specific question: in light of Lord Gill’s review, what is the position of the Court of Session on the introduction of a McKenzie friend ?”

Petitions Committee to Scottish Government on McKenzie Friends PetitionScottish Government’s Justice Department asked questions on McKenzie Friends. The Petitions Committee also wrote to the Scottish Government’s Justice Department, asking whether it supports the introduction of McKenzie Friends, and querying the ‘timetable’ for responses to Lord Gill’s recent Civil Courts Review. The Committee writes : “The purpose of this letter is to seek a written response to the specific points below and those raised during the discussion on the petition :

*What is its timetable to respond to Lord Gill’s review?

*Does it support the review’s recommendations as far as “McKenzie friends” are concerned and will it therefore introduce a McKenzie friend to assist a party litigant? If so when?

*What is its answer to Margo MacDonald’s point about the decision of Sheriffs to invite a McKenzie friend?”

Margo MacDonald pointed out McKenzie Friends are a right in England & Wales :

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill ‘caught out’ on speed of Holyrood’s McKenzie Friends Petition. Legal insiders today branded the Scottish Government’s response on the petition so far as lacking in direction, claiming the Justice Department had been caught out on the issue of McKenzie Friends and the speed of the actual petition, with Ministers being left red faced and without honest explanations as to exactly why McKenzie Friends had been kept out of Scotland for the past forty years.

A senior solicitor today said : “While many individual solicitors do not have a problem with the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland, I can well imagine the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates will continue their opposition to the introduction of lay people to the court process, on the basis that litigation which may well have been obstructed in the past for a variety of reasons, may now be achievable with the presence of a McKenzie Friend assisting a party litigant.”

He continued : “Clearly the powers that be, and that seems to include the Scottish Government, do not wish to lose control of the courts process where they may well be faced with difficult cases which cannot be so easily buried in the sands of time.”

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations welcomed the continued attempts from the Scottish Parliament to pursue the McKenzie Friends question, urging speedy progress to help party litigants already caught in the mire of complicated & difficult practices in Scotland’s courts system.

She said : “I am happy to see the Petitions Committee continue to pursue the Scottish Government & Lord President over the McKenzie Friends petition but it does seem to me that steps will have to be taken by the Parliament to ensure that party litigants have a right enshrined in law to call upon the services of a McKenzie Friend in a Scottish court, rather than leave the whole thing up to the courts discretion on a case by case basis, which in itself is an abuse of the individual’s rights as we see in comparison of how the McKenzie Friend facility is applied, quite fairly, in England & Wales.”

There is of course, no reason why the Scots public should be continually denied a legal right which has applied in the rest of the UK for forty years. Please support the campaign to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland, ensuring it becomes a right for court users to avail themselves of the services of a McKenzie Friend in Scotland’s courts.

My previous reports on the campaign to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland can be found HERE

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