Missing people must be considered in judicial factors law updates – committee

Holyrood committee welcomes proposals in Judicial Factors (Scotland) Bill, which aims to update law introduced in 1889.

Families of missing people ‘must be considered when appointing estate caretaker’ iStock

Families of missing people must be considered when courts appoint a caretaker to look after their estate, a Holyrood committee has said.

The Scottish Parliament’s Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee has welcomed proposals in the Judicial Factors (Scotland) Bill, which aims to update a law introduced in 1889.

A judicial factor is a person appointed by the court to administer or hold property which is not being properly managed because the person is deceased or missing, or it is not possible for the responsible person to carry out their duties.

Most judicial factors are currently solicitors or accountants.

While the position of judicial factors have been praised in the circumstances where businesses and partnerships break down or where the sole practitioner is deceased, the committee said clarity is needed on how the process can help the families of a missing person.

The Holyrood committee said the Scottish Government should put an “explicit statement” in place stating it is competent to appoint a judicial factor in this case, where appropriate.

It said: “The committee considers that the opportunity presented by this Bill must be used to ensure that judicial factors work for the loved ones of people who go missing, where their appointment is considered desirable.”

In evidence to the committee, a representative of the Missing People charity said there had to be a “willingness to step back from seeing the role of judicial factors as one that is primarily for legal experts…everything about the purpose of judicial factors makes sense for families of missing people”.

Committee convener Stuart McMillan said: “Most people in Scotland may not be familiar with judicial factors or their work, but during our evidence sessions we were able to learn more about their vital role.

“We are broadly content with the proposals in the Bill, which will update the laws around judicial factors that date back hundreds of years and bring welcome clarity.

“However, we do believe that these updates present the Parliament with an opportunity to go further to really ensure that judicial factors work for the loved ones of people who go missing.”

When quizzed on the need for better support for the families of missing people, victims and community safety minister Siobhian Brown told the committee she did not think the Bill needed a particular statement on missing persons “because we want judicial factors to cover all aspects”.

When pressed, she said: “If there is anything that we can bring in to give some comfort to Missing People in particular, we will consider it.”

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