In-court McKenzie Friends are ‘tip of the iceberg’

The use of McKenzie Friends is greater than had been thought, according to research showing that the bulk of their work is done outside court

The Study of fee-charging McKenzie Friends and their work in private family law cases, commissioned by the Bar Council and carried out by academics at the Universities of Cardiff and Bristol, showed that very few paid McKenzie Friends seek to represent litigants in court, preferring to offer advice and support before a case goes to court.

Chair of the Bar, Andrew Langdon QC, said instances of them representing clients in court was ‘smaller than many feared’ and should be ‘nipped in the bud’.

But he said their court work ‘represents the tip of the iceberg’ and highlighted the broader issue of people denied legal aid, who have no choice but to turn to McKenzie Friends.

The report found evidence of ‘difficulties’ presented by McKenzie Friends exercising rights of audience and said ‘concerning’ fee issues should be tackled, but it said clients received ‘a great deal of valuable support’ at a ‘relatively low cost’.

Recently Lady Justice Hallett said the term ‘McKenzie Friend’ was inappropriate in the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.

Giving judgment in R v Conaghan and Others [2017] EWCA Crim 597, she said the increase in applicants represented by ‘unqualified third parties’ has led to ‘totally unmeritorious applications’, that have ‘raised’ applicants’ hopes and taken up court time.

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