Courtroom abuse sparks new McKenzie friend fears
1 June 2015By Chloe Smith
An imminent consultation by the judiciary on the proliferation of paid McKenzie friends in court is 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 bar. 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 behaviour 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 publishes its consultation.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel, which last year welcomed the emergence of remunerated McKenzie friends, also plans to respond to the judicial report.
Ray Barry, chair of the newly formed Society of Professional McKenzie Friends, acknowledged recent negative news reports but insisted that ‘one or two bad examples are not typical of the main body of McKenzie friends’.