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Holyrood Petitions Committee to keep McKenzie Friend campaign open until Sheriff Court plans are scrutinised by MSPs & formally introduced

08 Sep

Petitions CommitteeHolyrood’s Petitions Committee heard latest on McKenzie Friends Petition. THE PETITIONS COMMITTEE of the Scottish Parliament have said they will not close Petition 1247 – McKenzie Friends for Scotland until MSPs have seen and had a chance to comment on the proposals from the Sheriff Court Rules Council to implement McKenzie Friends (otherwise known as lay assistants) in Scotland’s Sheriff Courts, following on from the Lord President’s Act of Sederunt, passed earlier in the summer which introduced McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s Court of Session in mid June, some 40 years after McKenzie Friends were first introduced to the English court system.

Nigel Don Petitions CommitteeNigel Don MSP (SNP) said Petition should not be closed until Parliament scrutinises Sheriff Court plans. During the Petitions Committee’s Tuesday session, Committee member Nigel Don said progress was being made ‘very fast’ and expressed his gratitude to the Lord President for introducing McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s Court of Session. Mr Don went onto say the ”Sheriff Court Rules are being dealt with but they seem to have gone a little bit slower” and said he believed Petition 1247 should not be closed until the rules for the use of McKenzie Friends in Scotland’s Sheriff Courts are “in the public domain” and the Petitions Committee has a chance to see & comment on the Sheriff Court Rules Council proposals.

Mr Don’s comments came after the Petitioner, Perth based law reform campaigner Mr Stewart MacKenzie had written to the Petitions Committee urging members to contact the Sheriff Court Rules Council for a clearer timescale for the completion of the implementation of McKenzie Friends in Scotland’s Sheriff Courts, bearing in mind the Court of Session and the Lord President had managed to complete the process in around five weeks.

Petitions Committee Convener Rhona Brankin MSP concluded the discussion on Petition 1247, by continuing the petition until the Committee receive more information.

Petitions Committee 7th Sept. 2010 – Nigel Don : Parliament should have a chance to see & comment on the Sheriff Court rules for McKenzie Friends before petition is closed. (click image below to watch video)

I have reported previously on the Sheriff Court Rules Council’s discussions on the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s Sheriff Courts, here : Sheriff Court Rules Council reveals McKenzie Friends on course to help party litigants in Scottish Sheriff Courts by end of summer 2010

While party litigants in Scotland’s Court of Session have been able to apply for a McKenzie Friend to assist their case since mid June of this year, party litigants in Scotland’s Sheriff Courts, where most hearings in which McKenzie Friends will have a ‘helping hand’ take place, will have to wait until the Sheriff Court Rules Council formalise their plans for rules governing the use of lay assistants in Sheriff Courts before being able to apply to a Sheriff for lay assistance.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff Court Rules Council stated : “I can advise that the Sheriff Court Rules Council is still considering the procedure for McKenzie friends within the Sheriff Court and, in particular, is considering whether the approach by the Court of Session is appropriate in the Sheriff Court. At this stage, I am not able to advise when the provisions will be commenced.”

McKenzie Friends for ScotlandMcKenzie Friends for Scotland. You can read my earlier coverage of the campaign to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland, and how having a McKenzie Friend in court may assist party litigants here : McKenzie Friends for Scotland : The story so far. All written submissions for the McKenzie Friend petition (Petition 1247) at the Scottish Parliament can be read here : Written submissions for Petition 1247, McKenzie Friends for Scotland

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