Judiciary to reconsider fee-charging McKenzie Friends

Family|September 15th 2017

The Judiciary is to reconsider a ban on the charging of fees by McKenzie Friends after a consultation on the plans attracted critical feedback.

The plan dates back to February last year, when the Office of the Lord Chief Justice launched a consultation into the role the informal advisors known as McKenzie Friends should play in the courtroom. Amongst the proposals was changing the term ‘McKenzie Friends’ itself, replacing it with a clearer term; insisting they adopt a formal code of conduct – and banning the widespread practice of Friends charging fees for their services.

The consultation, The Law Society Gazette reports, received “a large number of responses, covering a broad range of issues” before its closure in June last year.

Since then there have few updates on progress but news has now filtered through that the Judicial Executive Board (JEB) plans to establish a new working group to further consider the proposals. The JEB is a panel of senior judges who advise the Lord Chief Justice.

Image by sergio barbieri via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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  1. Les says:

    Whilst there has been a number of “Bad Apples” highlighted concerning Mckenzie friends there is equally as many “Bad Apples” within the legal profession that has also made the media.

    No system is perfect but there has to be a plug to fill the gap for litigants in person since the changes to legal aid funding in family law matters leaving many parents disadvantaged especially if one side is represented.

    There are some very good Mckenzie friends whose help is invaluable even to the court on occasion by their understanding of the legal process and ability to produce concise documents, bundles, draft orders etc. Without that help many parents would be lost in seeking a legal resolution and those families would remain dysfunctional with that negative impact suffered by the children involved.

    Many reputable Mckenzie friends welcome regulation but can a court dictate outside the court room that reasonable fees or travel expenses cannot be charged, I think not. if that was the case then the court’s may wish to consider if that would worsen maters forcing many disadvantaged parents to go seeking “underground” services away from any regulation or monitoring the quality of work provided for the courts that may indeed further clog up the current back logged system.

    The obvious solution would be registration, regulation, PII an possibly an “attendance ID card” such a card is required to assist in the court, handed in on arrival and any poor conduct, the card is simply not returned, thus removed from the court entrusted position of Mckenzie friend to face a disciplinary procedure regarding any further role as a McKenzie friend for an appropriate period of time.

    Such ideas exist within the Mckenzie-friend Organisation along with the backing of a recognised registered charity and with a number of plans, pilot schemes and proposals for court recognised organisations. The intended outcome is reputation, regulation and accountability along with reducing the number of court applications, hearings with a strategy on the utilisation of the courts valuable time, especially regarding litigants in person, and newly separated families who have not been contaminated by the current family law process that is daunting to so many helpless parents.

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