A McKenzie friend whom the Gazette has been investigating since the end of last year has been featured on a BBC current affairs programme on which his former clients spoke of feeling ‘devastated, destroyed and distraught’ by his actions.
David Bright, and his organisation The Parents’ Voice, were investigated in an item on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2 this morning.
The Parents’ Voice purported to offer people help in family disputes, including child custody battles.
The programme heard testimonies from two people who said they were former clients – a man called Stephen, not his real name, and a woman named Rupinder Randhawa.
Both claimed they were charged around £500 per month as well as one-off fees, though little to no work was done on their cases.
Randhawa also said she paid Bright £6,000 to write a book about her case, though it was never published.
In October last year, Bright was jailed for perverting the course of justice. He has since been released. He was sentenced at Wood Green Crown court for submitting an expert report during the trial that he knew to be false.
It had been compiled by his colleague and partner Claire Mann. Mann used her maiden name Silverstone and falsely claimed to be a clinical psychologist.
The court heard that one of the parents involved in the dispute, who later told the Gazette his story, had been ‘emotionally and financially’ affected by the case and lost contact with his children as a result.
The Gazette has also spoken to Andrew Hart, another former client of The Parents' Voice who brought a £12,000 debt recovery claim against Bright after the McKenzie friend was jailed.
Hart’s lawyer, Lawrence Stephens partner Adrian Ring, alleged that his client did not get what was expected and that there was ‘nothing substantial that showed what was being done’ while Bright was representing him. Bright denied the allegations.
Richard Miller, head of the Law Society's justice team, told today's programme that the society was calling for a ban on McKenzie friends being able to claim costs in court cases, which he said would ‘help to spell out that a McKenzie friend is not a qualified lawyer’.
Miller said: ‘They do not have the training that a qualified lawyer would have and they should not be regarded as being on a par. A lot of paid for McKenzie friends are acting as lawyers and advertising as lawyers even without the qualifications.’
A consultation by HM Judiciary on the issue of paid McKenzie friends closed in June last year. It proposed a ban on fee-charging McKenzie friends and recommended that all McKenzie friends sign up to a code of conduct, and that rules governing the courts’ approach to McKenzie friends be legally codified.
Despite repeated requests asking when the consultation responses will be published the judiciary has yet to confirm a date.
Bright has previously told the Gazette he believed the psychologist’s report was genuine and that his organisation had helped hundreds of people.