Lay Representation in the Scottish Civil Courts

Published on: Author: Ruth O'Donnell Leave a comment

Halle Turner presented to the Glasgow Forum for Scots Law on 28 September. The following is a summary of the argument that she put forward at her seminar ‘Lay Representation in the Scottish Civil Courts’. You can view the full presentation on the GFSL Youtube channel.

Traditionally rights of audience in the Scottish courts have been strictly reserved to solicitors, advocates and the litigant personally. However, more recently calls to improve access to justice for litigants unable or unwilling to be represented by a lawyer have led to the introduction of a number of new rules allowing for “lay representation”– representation of the litigant by another individual who is not legally qualified. However, the rules regarding lay representation are often confusing, and vary depending on the form of action or procedure. Lay representatives are also drawn from a diverse group and their skill levels vary widely, from “professional” lay representatives who work for organisations like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to friends or family members of the litigant with no legal experience at all.

These variations are only one aspect of the challenges increased access to lay representation may present. While the traditional roles of solicitor, advocate and litigant are well established and well under understood in law and within the court process, the relatively new role of lay representative is not. This is due both to the somewhat spare terms of the rules and the lack of established links between the role of the lay representative and the existing law and process. This can lead to a number of difficulties ranging from conceptual issues to procedural and practical uncertainties. It is suggested that a better understanding of lay representation within the wider landscape of Scots law and procedure may be necessary to best implement the important public policy aims behind the expansion of access to alternative representation.

~ Halle Turner

Halle Turner is a doctoral student at the School of Law.  Her thesis topic is ‘The Party Litigant in the Scottish Civil Courts’ and she is supervised by Dr Stephen Bogle and Professor Tom Mullen.

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