HM Judiciary set to reconsider proposals for regulating McKenzie friends

Published: 21st September 2017

HM Judiciary is set to make a reassessment of proposals for regulating the McKenzie Friend sector, following a recent consultation around the banning of fee recovery. The consultation received a large amount of responses, leading the board to create a working group that will aim to review the original proposals set out for regulating McKenzie Friends.

McKenzie Friend Proposals

The proposals, which were made in February 2016, included the banning of McKenzie Friends recovering fees and also suggested that a code of conduct should be introduced for all unqualified advisers that are involved with future cases. Another recommendation within the original proposals was that the approach that courts take towards McKenzie Friends should be legally codified. Months after this point, in June 2015, the consultation on this matter closed, however the judiciary haven’t confirmed a response date, simply saying that all submissions were still being considered.

There has now been a recent update on the matter, with the judiciary addressing the point. A judiciary spokesperson commented saying: ‘A large number of responses were received to this consultation paper, covering a broad range of issues. The Judicial Executive Board has decided to establish a further judicial working group to review the original proposals in the consultation paper in the light of these responses. That group will report to the board in the first instance.’

The president of the Law Society, Joe Egan, also commented on the matter, saying: ‘We welcomed the original report, particularly the proposed prohibition through court rules of the recovery of fees as a workable alternative to seeking and enforcing an outright ban. The “number of responses” seems scarcely to explain why it has taken the best part of two years to follow up what was a very good report, but we take the announcement as a sign of progress and look forward to hearing more.’

Cases of poor McKenzie Friend representation

Calls for changes to the way in which the justice system deals withpaid McKenzie Friends have been called for more and more in recent times, based on events within specific cases. In a case in 2015, an ex-nightclub bouncer was prevented from acting as a McKenzie Friend, following an instance where many witnessed him calling a lawyer an obscene name. He was then told that he could never represent anyone in court again, being served with an interim order that would prevent him from acting on another’s behalf again.

The McKenzie Friend system was also brought into question more recently when David Bright, a paid McKenzie Friend, was sentenced to 12 months in jail for perverting the course of justice after submitting a psychology report in 2016. The report had been compiled by Claire Mann, his colleague and partner, but it appeared that she had used false credentials and wrongly claimed to be a clinical psychologist. Bright pleaded not guilty and said that he thought Mann’s credentials and the report were genuine, but the court did not believe such claims and he was imprisoned.

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