Scottish advocate delivers training in second African country

Neil Mackenzie

A member of the Faculty of Advocates has left his mark on a second African country, after volunteering to help train local lawyers.

In 2012, Neil Mackenzie visited Malawi with David Young QC, to assess the need for advocacy training, and on his latest trip he took part in a scheme to strengthen the criminal justice system in Kenya.

Mr Mackenzie answered an advert by International Justice Mission for experienced court practitioners to deliver training in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

He learned that, until recently, prosecutions in the magistrates courts – where the bulk of criminal cases are heard – had been brought by police prosecutors and allegations of corruption were rife.

However, an independent Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had been established, and it had recruited widely.

“A very material challenge that followed the phasing out of police prosecutors and the introduction of 549 independent, legally qualified ones was how properly and efficiently to train them,” he said.

A rolling programme of fortnightly courses was set up, and Mr Mackenzie and Brian Gilfedder, solicitor advocate, took part in one of those courses.

“There were 35 participants on the course and, strikingly, around three quarters were female. We delivered talks on case analysis, submissions, Examination-in-Chief, Cross-Examination and Re-Examination. There were further talks on dealing with child and expert witnesses,” said Mr Mackenzie.

“The participants were of mixed experience, enthusiasm and ability. The need for advocacy training was quite clear: there is little or no advocacy training built into their legal education, and many prosecutors were very newly-qualified and had little experience.

“A vast amount of information was conveyed in a very short time, and there was a genuine willingness to participate and learn. The purpose of the training was not, specifically, to deal with police corruption. Rather, it was to attempt to train professional, independent prosecutors in order that reasoned and reasonable decisions about whether to prosecute at all are taken; that those prosecutions are prepared properly and conducted in a fair and efficient way.

“The course was an intense, demanding but worthwhile experience. The attempt to improve the standard of prosecutions generally is a noble one that deserves to succeed and, hopefully, improve the quality of life of everyday Kenyans.”

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