BBC alerts public on the risks of using ‘McKenzie friends’ in legal battles
Mark Reeves, 17th February, 2017
A recent BBC2 programme has raised concerns over the integrity of McKenzie friends, and the risks of relying on their advice in legal disputes. Our Head of Family Law, Mark Reeves, reveals what this story means for the industry and for you…
What is a McKenzie friend?
McKenzie friends are advisors who can help people fill out forms and understand the legal process when representing themselves in court.
Why do people use them?
People who can’t afford or don’t want to use a lawyer often use them instead. However, more and more McKenzie friends are starting to charge for their advice.
Are they qualified?
No, you don’t need any legal qualifications to be one, and you don’t have the duties to the court that a qualified lawyer does. Anyone can be a McKenzie friend.
Unlike solicitors and legal executives, McKenzie friends are unregulated.
“Ban McKenzie friends claiming costs,” says The Law Society.
The Law Society has called for a ban on McKenzie friends being able to recover costs in court cases.
It argues this ban would help spell out the fact that McKenzie friends are not solicitors or barristers, despite some advertising themselves as such.
McKenzie friend victim speaks out
You may have seen this story on the BBC2 Victoria Derbyshire show on Monday 13th February.
The story followed mother-of-four Rupinder Randhawa’s experience of using a McKenzie friend in her child court case.
Ms Randhawa had been fighting the adoption of her youngest two children, which was instigated by social services.
After being told by a solicitor that pursuing a court battle would be ‘hopeless’, she turned to The Parent’s Voice, a service that provided McKenzie friends, run by David Bright.
Mr Bright charged her £480 a month, plus extra one-off charges that amounted to thousands, to work as her McKenzie friend.
After losing the case, Mr Bright asked for an extra £6,000 to pay for a book to be published about her case, which he claimed would help win her children back. The book was never published.
Ms Randhawa did win a county court judgement against Mr Bright, but has since stopped fighting the adoption of her children.
She said: "I felt like I'd been conned. I felt my whole world came crashing around me, because there was no hope in getting my children back."
In a separate case in 2016, Mr Bright was sentenced to 12 months in prison for perverting the course of justice in a family court.
What this case means for you
This case is a warning to anyone thinking of representing themselves in a legal dispute.
If you’re in a similar situation, your first stop should always be to get professional, no-obligation advice from a family lawyer.
Family lawyers like ours will support you through the whole process, and protect you and your family’s best interests.
Whether the issue concerns your children or your finances, or both, you should always seek professional advice as important decisions will need to be made, which may have a big impact upon you and your family.
If a court is going to make those decisions then it’s imperative that your case has been prepared and presented in the best way possible.
We may also be able to resolve your dispute without even needing to go to court. We can conduct negotiations on your behalf to resolve the issue rather than leaving it to a Judge to decide.
We also offer a mediation service where a qualified family mediator can organise a meeting for you and your former spouse or partner to help you reach an amicable settlement.
Whatever the circumstances of your case, it’s crucial that you get legal advice from a family lawyer.
Need advice? Talk to a qualified lawyer today
Please call our Head of Family Law, Mark Reeves, on 01482 324252 for a no-obligation chat.
Or email Mark here.
You can find out more about how we can help you here:
- Divorce & Family Law services
- Private Client services (including wills, personal injury & employment disputes)
Sources: BBC News and The Law Society Gazette.