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News In Focus

“McKenzie friends” rules clarify court role

5 January 2011

Consumer Focus Scotland has welcomed new rules, introduced 1 January, clarifying the use of lay support or “McKenzie friends” in Scotland's sheriff courts. The statutory organisation is among several bodies and individuals which have long campaigned for the role of McKenzie friends to be formally recognised and sanctioned.

Research conducted by Consumer Focus Scotland and the Scottish Legal Aid
Board suggests unrepresented litigants might benefit from being accompanies by a McKenzie Friend, who could provide them with moral support and other appropriate assistance. The organisation also cites potential benefits for the court and other parties, which arise from helping the litigant present their case clearly.

Gemma Crompton, senior policy advocate on legal services for Consumer Focus Scotland, said: “It has long been our view that McKenzie Friends offer valuable support to unrepresented parties in court. They are a consumer-friendly way of allowing court users to feel more confident and better supported, making the experience of going to court less daunting.

“However, as with any new rules it will be crucial for the courts to make users aware that they are able to bring along someone to provide them with such support. It will also be important for these new arrangements to be monitored to determine how effective they are and to ensure that they are meeting the needs of users of the civil justice system in Scotland.”
 

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