McKenzie friends: call for code of conduct

Topics: Regulation and compliance,Courts business

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Parties in the increasingly urgent debate about McKenzie friends have called for a mandatory code of conduct, amid mounting concerns about the behaviour of ‘practitioners’.

A former nightclub bouncer was last year barred from acting as a McKenzie friend after calling an opposition lawyer a ‘lying slag’. In another case, a High Court judgment admonished a McKenzie friend for pouring ‘more fuel on the flames’ in a defamation case.

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Ray Barry, chair of the Society of Professional McKenzie Friends, said that although McKenzie friends should not be judged by the actions of a few, adherence to a code of conduct should be mandatory for all those who charge fees.

The society now has 21 members who have agreed to comply with a code which was recommended by the judiciary in 2011. The society believes that this code should be imposed on all paid McKenzie friends.

Barry told the Gazette: ‘Many courts now require McKenzie friends to complete a form prior to a hearing. That form could ask whether the McKenzie friend is fee-charging or not. If yes, the McKenzie friend should be expected to be familiar with and required to comply with the code.

‘For the non-fee charging McKenzie friends the form should simply inform them that they can quietly advise the litigant but also that they may not address the court.’

HM Judiciary is in the process of completing a keenly awaited review of McKenzie friends. A previous recommendation for a code of conduct was not implemented by the government. A spokesperson for the judiciary said that a consultation on McKenzie friends is under consideration and is expected to be published shortly.

The Gazette understands that the report could be a deciding factor in whether the government legislates to ban the provision of unqualified assistance as a business. However, the HM Judiciary report will look only at those who charge for their services.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Here's a radical idea; what about requiring them to have a law degree, undertake a professional training course, have PII and be subject to regulation and if necessary struck off?

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  • Couldn't have put it better. When will the regulators / MOJ anyone else who cares etc realise that this race to the bottom will end in disaster?

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  • So, if paid, a Code of Conduct, but if not, none.

    And the definition of "paid" is? A "fee" is what precisely?

    The Courts will be bogged down with disputes on this lot....best of luck to them, they'll need it. They'll certainly find dealing with the public direct less pleasant than dealing with solicitors, who previously took the flak.....

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  • You shall not stand in the Court foyer ready to knock another McKenzie Friend on the head for work (as Solicitors used to do in the latter 1770's when the re was such a 'profession').

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  • Code of Conduct ? No just force upon them the draconian excessively burdensome regime that is good enough for all of us plebians on the High Street, or is there a clear case of ant-competitive discrimination against Solicitors. (Nb Large firms able to take on the SRA are exempt from such regulation. Their representation on various SRA panels ensures this.)

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  • There is no need nor room for "professional" McKenzie Friends and the sooner Judges start refusing these people the opportunity to speak in Court, the better. After all QASA is required because of advocacy skill issues isn't it??

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  • Arthur Robinson

    I'm not sure a judge is properly entitled to refuse a citizen to have assistance in court. Certainly that shouldn't be the case.

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  • Isn't the expression "professional McKenzie friend" an oxymoron?

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  • There is scope for professional McKenzie Friends, certainly within family law. The ordinary person earning less than £20k a year simply cannot afford to pay a solicitor to assist with a dispute over child arrangements. Having someone who has experience and knows the procedure can help with applications and preparation of documents. Many people who are representing themselves feel intimidated by the courts and bullied by solicitors who are representing the opponent. Having someone with them that can prevent that, at a cost they can afford has to be a good thing. I am a professional McKenzie Friend and I am often thanked by barristers, solicitors,Judges and Magistrates for my help in cases. There is room for us all within the present system and rather than complaining about McKenzie friends it would be better for everyone if we could work together.

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  • More advertising for this particular clique of McKenzie Friends. I suppose Resolution do it for their solicitors.

    Ray Barry & his tin-pot outfit are irrelevant.

    McKenzie Friends have the Institute of Paralegals / Professional Paralegal Register plus the likes of FNF - all of whom already sign a Code of Conduct and have requirements to be listed or members.

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