A solicitor's obligation to attend court for all hearings where counsel or solicitor advocates are instructed remains despite a new ruling from the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland has emphasised.
The Society was responding to a ruling by Dean of Faculty Gordon Jackson QC, said to be in response to the coronavirus crisis, in which he extended the permission to counsel to appear in the civil courts without an instructing agent, to all criminal work other than trials, "if the circumstances require". This includes preliminary hearings, appeals and bail appeals.
The Dean added that "Plainly if there is an available instructing agent then the usual way of proceeding – with the agent in attendance – should be adhered to. But if not then counsel may appear without an instructing agent."
It was noted that the Lord President had given his "blessing" to the ruling.
In response the Society stated: "While we are disappointed that Faculty of Advocates colleagues did not provide us with the opportunity to discuss the effects of this ruling on solicitors, this does not change the obligation of solicitors to instruct counsel or solicitor advocates and attend court for all hearings. We would remind all members of their responsibility to liaise with both clients and counsel about any changes to their availability during this time.
"We believe that a positive working relationship between solicitors and the counsel or solicitor advocates they instruct will mean that there will be minimal need for this provision."