Rights of Audience in the Supreme Courts review
It was announced on 28 September 2009 that senior Scottish investment banker Ben Thomson would carry out a short independent review of the workings of the system of rights of audience in the Supreme Courts.
The review follows concerns expressed by the Lord Justice Clerk Lord Gill in an Appeal Court ruling, and a call for a review by the Law Society of Scotland. Both advocates and solicitor advocates have rights of audience in the Court of Session and High Court. Advocates are regulated by the Faculty of Advocates, and solicitor advocates by the Law Society. In the case of Woodside v HMA (February 18, 2009), the High Court criticised the behaviour of solicitors representing a person facing a murder charge, and Lord Gill said that "This appeal has highlighted problems of rights of audience that seem not to be unique to this case. I think it would be opportune if there were to be a review of the working of the system overall." The review will look at the overall system, covering both advocates and solicitor advocates.
The remit of the review was:
"In the light of the decision of the Appeal Court in the case of Woodside v HMA, to
- review the operation of rights of audience in the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary, having particular regard to
- the desirability of common principles applying in relation to the exercising of rights of audience by all practitioners appearing before the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary, and fair competition between solicitors advocates and advocates
- the paramount importance of the proper administration of justice
- recommended any improvements which might be made to the regulation of such rights of audience, and
- make any related observations or findings"
Ben Thomson is the Chairman of Edinburgh-based investment bank Noble Group which he joined in 1990, being Chief Executive from 1997 to 2007. He is also chairman of the board of trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland, children's publisher Barrington Stoke and Reform Scotland, the non party aligned Scottish think tank.
The Thomson Review Team published its report on 17 March 2010. Further details of the launch can be found in the full news release. There are also full responses to the draft report.
Rights of Audience & Rights to Conduct Litigation
Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 were commenced in March 2007. They set out arrangements by which rights to conduct litigation and rights of audience can be granted in Scotland to members of a professional or other body i.e. to bodies whose members are not necessarily legally qualified.
This is achieved by means of a scheme drawn up by the body seeking such rights for its members - the scheme has to be approved by the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Scottish Ministers. The scheme has to specify the rights they would like (in relation to which courts, categories of proceedings and nature of business); to describe the training requirements and code of practice which the body would impose on members seeking to exercise such rights; and to set out their arrangements for indemnifying members of the public, handling complaints, coping with breaches of the scheme and so on.
Applicants are required to make the application public for a period of 6 weeks and the Lord President and Scottish Ministers are required to consider written representations made to them during that period. Having considered any representations and having consulted each other, the Lord President will inform the applicant of the outcome of the application.