A McKenzie Friend is someone who accompanies a litigant in Court to provide moral support. They may also take notes, help the litigant find the correct papers and give advice on questions to ask witnesses etc. They cannot however speak for the litigant, or run the case for them.
McKenzie Friends arose from the 1970 divorce case of McKenzie v McKenzie. In that case, the husband was representing himself and wanted the help of someone who was not legally qualified in the English Courts. His request was refused. However on appeal, it was determined that having moral support in Court was part of being entitled to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights. Any such assistants/supporters are therefore now referred to as ‘McKenzie Friends’.
A McKenzie Friend Can:
- Give quiet advice on points of law to the litigant
- Advise the litigant on issues that they might want to raise in Court
- Suggest to the litigant questions that they might want to ask the other party or witnesses
- Help organise documents
- Take notes
A McKenzie Friend Cannot UNLESS AN OFFICER OF THE COMPANY:
- Speak for the litigant / company
- Examine witnesses
- Address the Court (though the Judge may be prepared to hear from them if this would clarify an issue and assist in the swift administration of justice.)
- Attend a closed court unless they have prior permission from the Court.
- Sign Court documents on the litigant’s behalf.
Will permission for a McKenzie Friend always be granted?
A judge will not usually refuse permission unless it’s believed that allowing the McKenzie Friend would interfere with the administration of justice (such as if the McKenzie Friend constantly interrupts proceedings). However often the court will issue a warning to the litigant and McKenzie Friend first, before an outright refusal is made.
If the judge decides refuse permission for a McKenzie Friend, they must give reasons for doing so. Usually any refusal will be for a particular person to act as a McKenzie Friend rather than generally for the litigant to have any McKenzie Friend.
How much do KBBF LLP charge?
Typically, as professional McKenzie Friends we charge between £25 and £90 per hour, depending upon the complexity of the matter and who we allocate that element of the matter to based on our ‘fee earners’ experience and qualifications.
We offer a free 30 minute consultation telephone call.
Who are professional McKenzie Friends?
There seem to be two “branches” of McKenzie Friends:
- Professionals with experience of the legal system, such as former social workers, and police officers.
- Those with personal experience of the legal system having dealt with similar cases of their own.
At KBBF LLP we fall into both camps, our practice includes qualified Accountants and Legal Professionals but we entered this business having been through the mill ourselves.
Help or hindrance?
McKenzie Friends can improve access to justice by providing support for litigants in person. Attending Court can be a daunting experience, particularly for those who have not been before, and so many litigants feel encouraged to have someone who has been in the situation before sit with them and reassure them.
Many judges have also commented that in the high-pressure environment of the courtroom, McKenzie Friends can actually help litigants to separate emotion from fact. By encouraging the litigant to focus on factual issues, they help litigants to better present their case and assist the Court to more swiftly deal with matters.