New rules have been made allowing companies and other bodies to apply to be represented by non-lawyers in Scotland's civil courts from later this year.
Previous court decisions have held such bodies to be incapable of acting as party litigants, unlike individuals. Under the Act of Sederunt (Lay Representation for Non-Natural Persons) 2016, however, they will be able to apply to the court for permission for a lay representative to conduct proceedings on their behalf, on production of an authorisation document. The rules lay down the functions and duties of a lay representative and provide for occasions where the court may find a lay representative and non-natural person liable in expenses.
The court can impose conditions on lay representatives, "where it is necessary to do so in the interests of justice", and can grant permission in respect of one or more specified hearings. Permission can also be withdrawn.
The Act of Sederunt covers proceedings in the Court of Session, the Sheriff Appeal Court and the sheriff court, and partly implements chapter 4 of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. It comes into force on 28 November 2016.
A "non-natural person" as defined in s 95 of the Act means:
- a company (whether incorporated in the United Kingdom or elsewhere);
- a limited liability partnership;
- any other partnership; or
- an unincorporated association of persons.