Courtroom Abuse Sparks New McKenzie Friend Fears
By Chloe Smith – An imminent consultation by the judiciary on the proliferation of paid McKenzie friends in court in ringing alarm bells among lawyers, after a former nightclub bouncer was banned from providing such a service for grossly offensive behaviour.
Latest Bar Council minutes highlight fears that the judicial report will take a more accommodating line than the war. Susan Jacklin QC, chair of the family Law Bar Association, told a meeting that the judiciary does not share concerns that McKenzie friends ”are cannibalising work that the bar should be doing.”
The bar is launching its own investigation into fee-earning McKenzie friends in response to members’ concerns. These have grown more acute in recent days after Nigel Baggaley, described as the “moving spirit” behind LLPs McKenzie Friends 4U and Diy Law Shop, was banned indefinitely from assisting anyone in court for behavior which included calling a lawyer a “lying slag”. Baggaley has served prison sentences for dishonesty and public order offences.
Derek Sweeting QC, chairman of the Bar Council’s Legal Services Committee, said: “The Bar Council’s concern is that where members of the public are being asked to pay for the services of a McKenzie friend they should be aware that they are dealing with individuals who are unregulated, uninsured and who seldom have any legal training; often in circumstances where it would be no more expensive to instruct a junior barrister”.
The Bar Council said it has not yet formed an official view on the issue and will enter the discussion after the judiciary publish its consultation. The Legal Service Consumer Panel, which last year welcomed the emergency of remunerated McKenzie friends also, plan to respond to the judicial report.
Ray Berry, chair of the newly formed Society of the Professional McKenzie Friends, acknowledged recent negative news reports but insisted that “one or two bad examples are not typical of the main body McKenzie friends.” [Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette]