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Time to nip paid McKenzie Friends in the Family Court in the bud?

Date:16 JUN 2017
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Paid McKenzie Friends in family law cases vary from ‘business opportunists’ through ‘good Samaritans’ to ‘family justice crusaders’ and ‘rogues’.

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Research, commissioned by the Bar Council and carried out by the Universities of Cardiff and Bristol, found evidence of McKenzie Friends ‘whose active efforts to exercise rights of audience presented difficulties’, although others referred clients on to specialists where appropriate. It concluded that ‘there is enough that is concerning in relation to fee-charging McKenzie Friends to merit efforts to tackle the worst of the sector’.

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About 100 fee-charging McKenzie Friends are operating in England and Wales. However, it is impossible to gauge the exact number. Moreover, the bulk of work is delivered outside the courtroom, with few McKenzie Friends seeking to represent their litigant in person clients in court.

Chairman of the Bar, Andrew Langdon QC, said: 

‘It is particularly interesting that the courtroom – where the very concept of McKenzie Friends as “quiet supporters” for a litigant was born – is not primarily where those who pay them are receiving their services today. In that sense, what we see in court represents the tip of the iceberg. The risks of McKenzie Friends being able to seek payment for representing their clients in court, despite being unqualified and offering no disciplinary process and no requirement to have insurance, are considerable and so vulnerable clients have little protection.

The research suggests that the number of paid McKenzie Friends seeking judges’ permission to represent clients in court at present is smaller than many feared, and one view is that it can and should be nipped in the bud without impacting on access to justice.’