McKenzie Friends are non legally qualified people who assist people at court. The Law Gazette recently reported on yet another case of a McKenzie Friend giving negligent advice. The article highlights the need to put in place strict regulations about who can provide legal advice.
The case in the article was a family case where a couple had been wrongly advised by a McKenzie friend that they could remove a child to Ireland. The advice conflicted with an Interim Care Order made in England on the grounds that the father had parental responsibility. Had the couple been properly advised they would have known that they needed the consent of the Local Authority. The poor advice received meant that the family had to return to the UK.
In another case in 2016 a McKenzie friend was sentenced to prison for 12 months for perverting the course of justice in a family court following him submitting an expert report which had been compiled by his partner, who falsely claimed to be a clinical psychologist.
The main concern is that McKenzie Friends are not legally qualified and they are not regulated. Some actually charge a fee which is illegal.
In 2016, Mrs Justice Asplin was asked to convene a working group to consider the issue of McKenzie friends who charge fees. The group produced recommendations which included establishing a code of conduct for McKenzie friends and would prohibit a McKenzie friend from claiming fees for their work or expenses. Unfortunately 2 years on we are still no further on.
The recent case again highlights the need for there to be greater awareness of what McKenzie friends are at Court for and also for there to be regulation put in place to protect clients. Its important for people to get good quality advice from a qualified lawyer at an early stage. Why not consult your friendly family team at Maxwell Hodge?