McKenzie Friends

Just as I was pondering what I might blog about this weekend an email arrived in my inbox about an article I once wrote on McKenzie Friends. The email contained some information concerning the alleged actions of a representative of a father’s rights group who had been acting as a McKenzie friend in children proceedings. It was suggested that the McKenzie friend had written a letter to the court containing knowingly untrue and defamatory allegations about the other parent, had failed to copy the other parent in on the correspondence and the letter had lain on the court file for a year before being seen by the other parent when s/he bespoke a copy of the court file for other reasons. Insinuated in the information I have been given is the fact that the defamed parent resorted to either a legal action in defamation or the threat of such legal action in order to rectify the situation.

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I haven’t been told the nature of the defamatory allegations or of the case concerned, so I can’t verify it, but assuming it to be accurate I would imagine that this type of unconscionable behaviour is the exception rather than the rule. This post is not about that specific case, but on a general level it raises some interesting points about the limits of the role of a McKenzie friend and the difficulty of controlling or monitoring the conduct of ‘rogue McKenzies’.

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From the perspective of the court or a qualified legal representative (and of course the litigant in person herself) a McKenzie friend can be extremely helpful, and a litigant in person is plainly entitled in the ordinary course of events to have assistance from such a person. See the President’s Guidance on McKenzie Friends, recently updated. There are various authorities dealing with this topic but the practice direction refers to the most important of those along with the various principles including the presumption that a McKenzie friend will be allowed and the circumstances in which that presumption will be disapplied.

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The Guidance also summarises what a McKenzie friend is and is not: A McKenzie friend is NOT a lawyer and is NOT a representative. She has no rights of audience (cannot address the court directly) and is not entitled to conduct litigation on behalf of a litigant. It might seem at first blush unecessarily restrictive to limit what a McKenzie friend can do in this way, particularly since some ‘professional’ McKenzie friends are quite knowledgeable and experienced (by which I mean McKenzie friends who repeatedly act for parents perhaps through an organisation, rather than a one-off favour to a friend). But as the interests of justice are at stake it is important that safeguards are in place even if they are guarding against problems that arise infrequently.

If the anecdote above is to be believed it demonstrates that even those who one might think would know better are either unclear about the limitations on their involvement or do not consider themselves bound by them. In the context of ‘professional’ McKenzie friends who offer their services via parents’ rights groups and where the ethos may well be that the family court system is unfair or biased against parents and / or fathers there must be some real incentive to do whatever is necessary to achieve the result for the ‘client’: if the system or the rules are unfair why play by the rules?* And of course it is that sort of ;means to an end’ approach that one would hope not to see put into action in the case of a lawyer operating under a code of ethics or professional conduct (I foresee comments from individuals offering examples of unethical or dishonest conduct by lawyers as a response to this – to which I pre-emptively say – it happens, but in my experience its rare – Bruce Hyman is one obvious and quite extreme example).

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There are of course other important differences between a lawyer (solicitor, barrister or legal exec) and a McKenzie friend – a lawyer both has a formalised legal education which will include education on the limits on the role of the McKenzie friend and on professional ethics, and will be regulated and subject to a code of professional conduct and formal complaints procedure. A lawyer would be unlikely to place correspondence containing knowingly false allegations on the court file or to do so without copying the other parties into that correspondence because she would know that it would contravene various professional conduct rules (and potentially statute), because it would be obviously unfair and because she would be at risk of complaint, discipline or in extremis striking off. There is no such protection in the case of a McKenzie friend and the only recourse an opposing litigant would have in such a case would be to write to the court asking for the barring of the individual from acting as McKenzie friend, the removal of the information from the court file, or perhaps the threat of satellite legal action in defamation as in the case above (which might be rather taking a hammer to crack a nut, and I would have thought might be rather shaky legally speaking (can correspondence to a Judge in connection with family proceedings amount to defamation by ‘publication’? Perhaps so if the correspondence is not by a legal representative and / or is knowingly untrue – but I’ll leave that to the defamation experts and to another post)).

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Of course most McKenzie friends will not stoop to dishonest conduct, but some may still unwittingly engage in inappropriate or unfair practices because they are not familiar with court process. To draw on the anecdote above as an example, correspondence may be sent to the court and not to the other side, read by the Judge but go unchallenged by the party who is in the dark – for the inexperienced it often never occurs to them that everything the Judge sees ought to be seen by both parties or that the court may not pass on copy documents as a matter of course. Ordinarily a Judge who sees correspondence from a litigant in person or McKenzie friend will double check that this has been seen by all parties and may even arrange for court staff to send on copies, but this is not a foolproof mechanism and is likely to get missed. Of course a Judge ought in any event to be fairly circumspect about allegations contained in a letter where those are not backed up by evidence and where no findings have been made, and would inevitably ask the parties about their position in respect of such allegations prior to basing any interim decision upon them.

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Generally speaking McKenzie friends are a good thing, and frankly whether we lawyers like it or not we have to live with them – they are important for litigants in person, particularly those who lack confidence or are in fear of their opponent. But they are one of a group of individuals who can become involved in family proceedings without the rigorous ethical training and regulation that protects families against the conduct of rogue representatives in the ordinary course of events. Some courts have developed a practice of permitting paralegals (unqualified employees of a law firm) rights of audience in children act directions or conciliation hearings. Anecdotally I have heard of some isolated instances of inappropriate conduct by paralegals and have on at least one occasion been on the wrong end of this kind of sharp practice from a paralegal – conduct which could well have resulted in a professional conduct charge for a qualified lawyer. I don’t know how often this happens – I’d be interested to hear other people’s experience or views of this – but that it happens at all is unfortunate.

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Whilst the court needs to ensure that the parties are – as far as possible – on an even footing, and are able to obtain representation even where they cannot afford a fully qualified lawyer, the courts and lawyers alike need to be alert to the risks arising from involving unqualified non-parties in proceedings. One small amount of protection would be to ensure that in all cases where a McKenzie Friend is involved the court provides them with a copy of the President’s Guidance – the newly updated version dated April 2008 is in fact quite helpful and relatively accessible to a non-lawyer. Another would be to implement court office systems that ensured that cases involving a litigant in person or McKenzie friend are flagged so that court staff check whether documents filed have also been served. Solicitors would be wise to make checks with the court regarding documents filed prior to hearings, and counsel to confirm the same with the Judge or court staff at the outset of the hearing regarding documents filed on the day (although in the latter case court staff often pick this up and ensure copies are circulated).

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* Perhaps what I say is unfair to individuals offering their time as McKenzie friends via rights groups, but what I am really saying is that I understand the disincentive to scrupulously fair conduct if you consider yourself to be operating within a fundamentally unfair system – although I wouldn’t align myself with that position or indeed consider it to justify the kind of conduct I’m talking about.

36 thoughts on “McKenzie Friends

  1. Hi familoo,

    you anticipated comments such as this one, and I couldn’t help but rise to the bait. Of course lawyers are all whiter than white, aren’t they?

    My own case has been adjourned, and some of the tricks are now becoming apparent:
    . Ex’s solicitor agreed in court previously to provide me with copies of correspondence – but left out something which reflected badly on ex
    . I submitted correspondence to the court as supporting evidence for my case. Ex’s solicitor prepared bundle, and left correspondence out
    . Ex’s solicitor refused to have correspondence beforehand about items to be included in preliminary section of bundle (background, issues, chronology, position statements), writing to me to say that all that was needed was a summary and she would write this herself (despite what it says in the President’s Guidance, which I had).
    . I provided ex’s solicitor with all of these, none of which were included in the bundle she prepared
    . Ex’s barrister then provided all of the above in the bundle, despite what ex’s solicitor had told me
    . All of my supporting evidence (5 annexes) which had been included with my statement was misplaced in the (thick!) bundle, and not indexed. (As you know, all that ex’s solicitor had to do was to provide me with the index of the bundle)
    . When my case was adjourned, ex’s barrister (without consulting with ex) said she was available in August. On subsequently writing to the court with her dates she was suddenly unavailable until September which, without going into detail, would have set up a fait accompli.

    All of these are plausibly deniable mistakes, but the pattern is clear.

    Charities like FNF may argue, on behalf of both fathers and mothers, about problems with the system (CAFCASS, judges being out-of-touch etc). A LIP, like myself, can read up on case law, but that did not prepare me in any way for having to face such tactics by the lawyers.

    You say that “Whilst the court needs to ensure that the parties are – as far as possible – on an even footing… ” but your argument seems to be that lawyers know where the line is, and so don’t cross it – which is not quite the same.

    I was completely thrown when I discovered at court that, when he read through the notes beforehand the judge would have been unlikely to have seen my supporting evidence, and that he had taken his view on what the case was about from my ex’s barrister’s version of events. Can you honestly say that the two sides were on an even footing?

    Family law hearings should be about what is best for the child, and not what is best for either parent, and so shouldn’t be an adversarial process.

    I can quite understand lawyers doing the best for their clients in most circumstances, e.g. in divorce cases when what is being argued over is each person’s share of the pot – but should children’s welfare be treated in the same way?

    STH

  2. Hi again,

    I checked on the post because my reply hadn’t appeared, but I see it’s still awaiting approval.

    Of course an alternative approach to the problem (alleged problem) you have been told about is for the courts to do just as you suggest – make sure that both sides have access to all of the documentation. I made the mistake myself a while ago of writing to the court and not copying the letter to my ex’s solicitor, but this was simply out of ignorance and not out of any desire to gain unfair advantage.

    One of the problems that a LIP has (apart from being broke!) is that they do not know the details of the process, and risk falling foul of the system out of ignorance rather than malice.

    Should a fair hearing only be allowed to those children whose parents can both afford lawyers (or who both have Legal Aid) ?

    STH

  3. STH – Obviously I don’t know what has really gone on in your case but I can make some general remarks about a couple of the issues you raise:

    In my experience problems often arise between solicitors and litigants in person in getting bundles agreed and prepared – probably most often due to a combination of overwork and limited time on the part of solicitors and misunderstanding on the part of the LiP. The solicitor is under a duty to prepare an AGREED bundle. As a general rule if you don’t both agree what should go in, it is up to the person who wants the unagreed documents to present them in a supplemental bundle and ask the Judge to consider it. Quite often a LiP will want more in the bundle than a solicitor thinks is necessary – usually the solicitor will be better versed in knowing what will be helpful to the judge and what is just going to clog up the bundle and go unread, although of course there may be other documents that they don’t want in the bundle for other reasons i.e. because they are damaging to their client’s case.

    Case summaries should be a short and relatively objective setting out of the facts – if there is a dispute about something they should say that ‘the Applicant says X and the Respondent says Y’ – but again, if the document can’t be agreed a LiP can bring his own Case Summary.

    As for barrister’s availability – it can be genuinely really hard to fit things in when you have different courts fixing trial dates in different cases and everything clashes. Sometimes its impossible. Today we had to find dates to suit 7 barristers, a judge and a social worker all involved in the same case – we did it but some of us had to ‘bump’ other cases because today’s case is half way through and has to take priority.

    There are lots of practical and procedural things like this that LiPs don’t know and can’t be expected to intuit. I sometimes think it would be really helpful if someone put together some leaflets or a website to help people with this kind of thing. But on the other hand (I’m thinking as I type here) family courts are relatively informal and Judges will be relatively helpful to and very even handed with LiP’s in my experience and you can get a bit hung up on the procedure and lose sight of the substance of it – the case itself. There are a few lawyers out there who don’t know what on earth is going on either but they manage to get through ok because at the end of the day the finer points of procedure are secondary to getting to the heart of a case.

    I haven’t responded to everything, just picked and chose a little bit as its been a long day and I’m off to bed…:-)

  4. Hello.

    May I recount my experiences of helping L in P’s ?

    I have been a lay advocate for a year now and have been well received in the courts, esp the higher courts where I have currently enjoyed rights iof audience. I specialize in child law and helping litigants fight Social Services . I case manage from day one and advocate as well as preparing court paper work. I do the job that solicitors would do if they didn’t always “agree the evidence” that sells their clients down the swanney. I fight tooth and nail and never agree the evidence. I do win cases and I also gain the court’s respect. I have a passion and a missionary zeal for good advocacy in child law. I just wish I could be employed !

  5. @ Julie

    Are you acting as lay advocate for parents in care proceedings? I’m just wondering in what circumstances litigants end up in person bearing in mind the wider eligibility for public funding in care cases.

    How easy have you found it to persuade the courts to grant you rights of audience as opposed to just allowing you to act as a McKenzie?

    Not sure I agree with your comment about solicitors always agreeing the evidence and selling their clients down the swanney – most child law solicitors and advocates I know are passionate and zealous just as you describe, and work hard to ensure that their parent clients are on an equal footing when up against the social services arm of the state.

    But good for you giving you time to help litigants in this situation.

  6. This is a very interesting post, Familoo. I’ve recently written a guide for LIPs which contains advice on the use of McKenzies. I am currently working on an update, and shall include in it some ideas in this post, if I may.

    It shouldn’t be too difficult to come up with a code of practice for McKenzies, while allowing them to stay true to the principles of whatever campaign organisation they belong to.

  7. […] 23, 2008 by familoo Further to previous posts here  and here about McKenzie […]

  8. Hi,
    Apologies for not posting again.

    Basically yes. In over a dozen cases , five in the HC I’ve had full rights of audience. I case manage from day one and advocate at court . I win about 50%. I hate loosing and take that side of things very hard. I am now over – subscribed. I have been highly commended in judgements .

    I have a huge respect form some of the advocates I come up against. But what I do means that I don’t have to worry abouit treading on anyones toes – except of course the justices up to C of A judges.

    • Vita Falbo-Ellis

      Hi I am a qualified barrister but I cannot practice as I have not been able to secure a pupillage in Bristol, where I live. I have been employed as an advocate for a number of charities but I would like to set myself up as a MacKenzie friend specialising in family law. I would be grateful for any advice as to how to go about setting myself up as a MK friend, where to advertise, how much to charge etc.

      Thank you very much for your assistance in this matter.

      Kind regards

  9. As a McKenzie I would say that the opposing Barrister has objected to me being there in about 50% of of cases. The judge has always allowed me to be present.

    I have appeared in say 250 hearings over 5 years or so.

    LIP’s in my experience use me and others because they cannot afford not to. Most have already spent £10,000+ on fees, feel that they have got nowhere and cannot afford to keep fighting, but feel that they can’t just roll over and play dead

    Most need educating on what is, and isn’t acceptable to the courts and a fair number are their own worse enemies.

    Swizz

  10. The real problem is that Solicitors are loath to act in certain types of cases, e.g. Small Builder v Swearing Client argument/s, Penniless Blue Collar Worker v Boss Doe, or John Brown Car Repairs v Missing Person Anonymous, or Wild Eyed Immigrant babbling on about ‘unfair dismissal’. All contrary to what they claimed in their Yellow Pages Advert. Solicitors have a vetting system, your postcode, accent and case deters them. So your going to be told ‘We don’t do that type of case, can we suggest you try X. It gets worse some clowns going to suggest you try a Duty Solicitor, Citizens Advice, get a life, and she/ he pulls ‘the must go I’m due in Court in 1 hour, so keep in touch routine on you.

    Blue collar workers often have a good case but no money to fund it, so they get really a bad deal. They need advice, – so McKenzie Friends are needed. My only concern is how long is it before the McKenzie Friend himself begins actling like a Solicitor? The name of the game is Levelling the Playing field, it’s also called fairness, justice, and common law aid for the common man.

  11. I have had in-depth in-house training with ELC as McKenzie friend and have been granted right of audience numerous times now. What really grates me is when the Judgement does not resemble the facts of the case or the arguments that parties put in court. Of course in behind closed doors all manner of sins maybe hidden.

    To state that Lawyers sometimes mislead the Court or on occasion lie is much more commonplace than the system wishes to admit. LJ Potter has stated that in family proceedings parties are less than frank with the Court yet the perjury act is rarely used. Why bother attending court if the basic standards are not met of a just and fair system? throwing a dice seems fairer from experience.

    The other matter of concern is te over-riding objective which is being used to belittle the right to a fair hearing which is absolute and yet Judgs get told off for taking too long with cases, so Judges do believe in the old principles of Justice and what choice do they have but to go quiet or resign on principle?

    Of the McKenzies out there most are self-trained and do not have any knowledge of the basic principles of the Court system e.g housekeeping points, disclosure applications, the adversarial process etc. Our law is fine but the administration of it leaves much to be desired, and yes I have met some decent lawyers – one hand is enough to cont them. Everybody forgets at the end of the day it is a career and a buisness and the buisness interests coem first, second and last

    • Readers of this blog can visit the ELC website (environmental law centre) to make up their own minds, but a quick perusal of this not very up to date website suggests that ELC is primarily a campaigning organisation with a very particular view about rights and the judicial system. In my experience a campaigning mentality does not always make for the best representation, particularly in family cases where parties need both sensitive but pragmatic advice and good advocacy. The strong views of campaigners can sometimes obscure the realities of the legal merits of a case, even where the understanding of the law is solid. Although paid advocates are ‘career representatives’ this is a necessary feature if one requires expertise and hands on experience.

      I can’t vouch for your experience of the courts in environmental work, as its not my area, but it doesn’t reflect my own experience of the family courts. It is a shame that both ELC and yourself appear to have such a cynical view of the system and I wonder if your own view is a result of personal experience or arises from what your in-depth training has told you?

      There is an overriding objective in family proceedings but it is primarily a tool to ensure that the welfare of the child remains in focus and that the rights of all parties (including their huma rights, fair trial etc) are properly balanced. Pursuing ‘untruthful’ litigants in family proceedings for perjury would be difficult, expensive and pointless in most cases. It is often suggested by clients when the other side are telling whoppers, but at a time when the government is doing its level best to strip advocates of decent pay to represent litigants in these cases it seems crazy to suggest public funds should be wasted on prosecutions of this kind.

  12. [Unfortunately I have had to heavily edit your comment in order to ensure it does not offend against s12 Administration of Justice Act 1960. I am afraid it does leave your comment a little difficult to follow, but I have marked with a […] where I have removed something which dealt with what has gone on in court or has been set out in court documents. Lucy]

    I have also been a McKenzie and given right of audience.

    I would also like to state that the judgment and court transcripts did not match the truth of what was said in court.

    I found the opposition Barrister had lied to the court, deliberately stating […] when […].

    Now, thanks to one decent lawyer, the case is criminal as the order of a high court judge was ignored.

    The collusion took place between the solicitor for the parents, solicitor for the LA and the Guardian.[…]

    However, this Justice Judge had […]

    What a clever judge he was, as […], knowing exactly what the LA lawyers and Guardian were going to do.

    The LA Barrister is a disgrace to her profession.[…]

    I once believed in Justice, but now I know that court is a corporation designed to make money, that Barristers swear allegience to the BAR- a corporation and not to the upholding of justice or working for their clients.

    Familoo- you state best interests of the child is the focus, but that is not my experience.

    Best interests of the child was a slogan created by Hitler and the SS to remove children and use them in experiments etc.

    Now with that truth in mind- let me write a truth for you re one LA and its removing of children from a loving home and placing them with an unassessed foster carer for 6 years.

    In this placement all children were sexually abused, tortured, sold for sex etc […]

    Now, please tell me how corporate care and child protection have anything to do with caring for children.?

    It is just a money racket and children are the commodity.

    It is also an experiment in trauma- and now trauma clinics are being set up to deal with the deliberate trauma created for looked after children.

    It is crystal clear that children are mere guinea pigs for this experiment and all of us need to wake up to the truth and stop supporting child abuse.

    A judge told me the other day- Family Law has nothing to do with Truth…….so why are we bothering to go in the court doors then of this corporation which is designed purely to make money out of the misery of parents and children.?

  13. I think having read the reply I have to seek the right to reply to what seems a personal attack rather than reasoned opinion.

    It is unfortunate that the elc website referred to was not looked at in-depth as the petition against the EU Constitution and also tips for litigants-in-person as well as the correspondence with the President of the family Division would have been instructive.

    I am wary of the manner in which the response is written as it would seem brutal honesty and assisting naive parents in family law proceedings (under the social Enviornent aspect of Environmental law), has shown acts beynd belief e.g. Documents beign with-held from the Court bundle, documents including bundles going missing at final hearing, failure to obey court orders for agreed instructions/ documents to be disclosed ignored with impunity. Experts using untested theories at request of High Court Judge, social workers and experts using theories which have no base methodology or procedure for assessing e.g. attachment.

    Faiulre to give reasoned Judgements and Judgements ignoring relevant matters and taking into account irrelevant matters and relevant argument just being ignored.

    Anyone with basic knowledge of law knows that article 6 is a fundamental and mandatory right not to be balanced against other rights and as to obedience to ECtHR decisions laughable e.g. use of bench memorandum (advisory opinion written by case lawyer) which UK Judges refuse to disclose alhtough ECtHR has ruled that advisory opinions must be disclosed if asked for.

  14. [Unfortunately I have had to heavily edit your comment in order to ensure it does not offend against s12 Administration of Justice Act 1960. I am afraid it does leave your comment a little difficult to follow, but I have marked with a […] where I have removed something which dealt with what has gone on in court or has been set out in court documents. Lucy]

    S12 Administration of justice ACT 1960—- ah yes, it is an act- not law.

    (d”)where the information relates to a secret process,!!!!!discovery or invention which is in issue in the proceedings;”

    I feel it all proves my point that these secret courts are merely there for court jestors to dress up, act out various roles and use human lives in the process.

    As one mother explained- the patriarchs get a buzz out of the feeling of being able to have power over others, especially over women and children- the chattels of society.

    Perhaps that explains why many lawyers, barristers and judges take it all so lightly- it is not really real to them.

    It is all an Act.

    Well, it is real to the poor human service users who often suffer from legal abuse syndrome,because their minds cannot comprehend the insanity of this Just Us process.

    That is why Lady Justice will balance the scales now re Law and Justice.

    • Unfortunately it really is law which could land either you or I in contempt of court and in clink if I had allowed your comment to be published. For what it’s worth, Jack Straw has announced that he is reforming this law very soon.

  15. McKenzie Friends

    The comment regarding the Environmental Law Centre {ELC] has been drawn to my attention.

    ELC have been of assistance to me for many years now. The first thing to mention is that they are a charity and their advice to me has been free of charge. As a non government funded charity, without access to the myriad of resources which other bona fide and fake charities have available, they do their best to advise deserving cases and try to fix disasters which families may have been drawn by lawyers, social services, Cafcass etc.

    I have found their advice to be honestly genuinely given. ELC was the only body, organisation or person to inform me about use of bench memoranda by the judiciary, a matter I soon found to be fact when LJ Potter left one in the bundle of documents that were returned to me following a now not surprisingly failed PTA application.

    I was assisted by ELC in an application to the ECtHR regarding bench memoranda which for reasons which cannot be fathomed was refused even though ECtHR has given several judgements on the same point of law. Surprisingly some MP’s and others contacted on this issue don’t seem to regard the reading out of an ostensibly pre-prepared judgement expressing an opinion on the case to be a problem or a breach of the European Convention.

    If one is looking for a reference for ELC as a Mckenzie Friend one can do little better than the comments of a senior Lord Justice to Mr O’Connell & ELC viz LJ Ward after giving judgement

    [I have edited out the excerpts of hearings in your post here, partly because they are so very long, and partly because they segue from one case to another. Some of the material appears to be excerpts of what was said within family proceedings and therefore I am not able to publish it on this site, and since I cannot distinguish between the excerpts from family hearings and excerpts from cases in which there may be no reporting restrictions I have felt it best to simply remove the whole block. I found it very difficult to make sense of the various extracts strung together, and am not sure that readers would make very much more sense of it, or that much of the material relating to non-family proceedings was of much relevance to the readers of this blog, but in any event I could not publish material which would appear to be covered by reporting restrictions. I’m sorry to have butchered your comment in this way. Lucy]
    PS – I have the original official transcripts of the above references if you don’t believe me and there are other examples.

    G Davies
    xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  16. PAIN,have been dealing with a Public Law Case, for several months now.
    We sent a representative up to the Family Court in Cumbria, to act as a McKenzie friend.
    The Father did have a Children’s Panel Solicitor to represent himself
    On arrival at Court, the Client, chaperoned by a Social Worker, told Yvonne,that if PAIN continued to be involved in this Case, the Parents would have their Children adopted,and all forthcoming assessments would be canceled.
    Due to the threats, we have had to butt out, leaving the Mother without representation.
    Even the Fathers Solicitor objected to our involvement in the proceedings.
    Blackmail and corruption continue.
    I will be talking to my Co Workers, with reference to a group response, regards to this injustice.

    • I don’t really understand why a mother in care proceedings should need a mckenzie, since she is entitled as of right to legal representation.

  17. Dear Miss Haines, I recently read your comments with sheer amazement as only a practicing member of the legal profession and any experience of family courts would be expected to reply.

    Reality is that the overriding objective is NOT the best interests of the child in family court proceedings. The term is derived from Mein Kemp. Family court by another name is failed Diplock Courts in NI. There is little to no openness or letting all evidence come to light, all wrongdoings contained in the ulterior motivated bullshit ‘secrecy clause’ and gagging orders to allegedly protect the interests of the child. Further, all hearings must be transcripted by court appointed, controlled and mandated expensive transcribers. The so called official transcript bears little resemblance to what actually took place in Court. The key problem is that the administrators, including social services and the sincerely corrupt CAFCASS are failing to follow the rule of Law and repeatedly putting the best interests of the abusing parent first. By far if only the judge followed their judicial oaths, things would be much better and further reliance of bench memorandums which are banned by ECtHR rulings curtailed would assist, but then I am sure you never heard of bench memos!

    Some of the practices by the administrators are simply damn right corrupt – fully documented in my own case. Since time beginning and year on year on year… the UK media laps-up with high coverage the fairy stories strategically released about openness, transparency, letting the press into a few ‘engineered showcases’ court hearings by the administration to give false impressions of justice seen to be served in a tiny fraction of cases purely for press coverage, revenue generation and ‘customer relations’. Whilst in reality, 99% of all other family proceedings, abuse of children and Law is rife and pervasive. There is 99% – a figure yet undisputed by the DCA/LCD/Ministry-of-whatever is automatically awarded to predominantly one sole gender and/or the abusing parent. It is a matter of fact that the President of the Family Court encouraged a mother to break the law.

    For if the interests of the children was truly and genuinely paramount, then ALL proceedings should be carried out in public where all the evidence and facts can be independently and transparently tested. I will gladly allow my case to be carried out in the open – I have nothing to hide, unlike others.

    The administration hate LIPs and McKenzie friends as they are often uncontrollable unlike most of the career motivated and highly rewarded legals – Yes judge, no judge, 3 bags full judge… another case tomorrow, yes judge….win some lose some, they get lucratively and disproportionately paid anyway…

    Having myself being subjected to some 40+ court hearings in my own case spanning several courts in several counties, including “coincidental” (quote DCA) multiple hearings on the same dates on the opposite sides of the country, I have documented/transcripted evidence of the best corrupt practices by CAFCASS and others. And no my views are not tarnished by my experience. For the moment I will not publish them, on threats by DCA/LCD/Ministry of Justice. Since the involvement in my own case, the Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has TOTALLY transformed my case from almost zero contact to shared residential case. The relative zero stage being achieved by lawyers, barristers, other legals and I have incurred financial losses to the tune of well over third of a million pounds – the most important and immeasurable loss being the destruction of my children’s lives by the system for the mothers sole premeditated personal benefit and greed, matters commented by even LJs. The mother has been quoted to be [edited out owing to reporting restrictions] – yet she is rewarded at every stage and does not even have to attend court proceedings (several documented instances) [edited out owing to reporting restrictions]
    The former quotes against the recalcitrant mother are from the Court Of Appeal assisted by ELC who have been repeatedly commended for their outstanding work by high ranking judges and Lord Justices, despite strong objections by agents such CAFCASS and other lucratively paid lawyers/barristers drawing monies from the legal aid board slush fund. Some lawyers as simply corrupt, exposed by the help of ELC – unnamed for the moment. It is fact that the few dedicated and trusted ELC helpers are all unpaid volunteers running on a constrained budget, a budget that is fully accounted for and does not include 1st class travel, 5 star hotels or ‘shower expenses’ previously claimed by the legal profession.

    For record ELC has never asked me or my children any monies for the amount of time, effort and dedication they put in my case to-date. In addition ELC, has spent hours spent on counseling and also understanding the ‘facts to perceived facts’ of their cases. ELC is very attuned to the bureaucracies by nature being fragmented structures and they always give the impression of general consensus is nothing but a camouflage for a more sinister organizational dynamics.

    To your comments about out of date website etc… in my own view it is key contents, including root Human Rights and other Law that are the most important key fundamentals that are being knowingly broken. If you want other information then you should look to the http://www.famileslink.co.uk and also http://www.alliance4justice.eu under research for the latest in research and law.

    • 1 There appear to be two mutually contradictory conspiracy theories at large: that the ‘system’ is designed to secretly remove children wrongfully from their parents, or that it is corruptly leaving them with abusive parents (as in this post). I simply ask, can the ‘sinister organisational dynamics’ of the family justice system be aiming towards two such mutually incompatible aims? And are the media also part of this conspiracy, which now apparently includes selecting ‘showcases’ in order to hoodwink the public?

      2 Could someone please tell me how I claim for five star hotels and ‘shower expenses’ from the LSC (whatever they are, I’d like to try them out)?

      3 The link to http://www.familieslink.co.uk is not working.

  18. Ok, I see you have posted a reply Miss Haines.

    Correction to some typos in my first post….

    Typo-1, third para:-

    There is 99% – a figure yet undisputed by the DCA/LCD/Ministry-of-whatever is automatically awarded to predominantly one sole gender and/or the abusing parent.

    Should read:==> There is 99% sole parent custody to the detriment of children – a figure yet undisputed by the DCA/LCD/Ministry-of-whatever is automatically awarded to predominantly one sole gender and/or the abusing parent.

    Typo-2, seventh para:-

    Some lawyers as simply corrupt…

    Should read:==> Some lawyers are simply corrupt…

    Now to your reply:-

    First, these are not ‘conspiracy theories’ as stated in your post. They are sadly undisputable documented facts that have been openly put to the EU in a form of a petition to the Petition Committee, DCA/LCD/Minister-of-whatever and DFES by the Environmental Law Centre. The head of the Family Court division LJ Potter refused to reply and threatened ELC from pursuing the matter, yet he has plenty of time to give a character reference to a barrister who was shown to manufacture evidence ie. Lie – published in newspapers – these facts are available at http://www.familieslink.co.uk/ under ‘QUICK LINKS’ (right hand column).

    Secondly, they are not ‘contradictory’, but inclusive events that are destroying the nuclear family unit and the fabric of society. They are facted and repeatedly put to the administration, who flatly refuse to address the wrongdoings of child abuse and Law. Whilst private bodies/organizations learn from their mistakes and implement corrective measures in compliance with the rule of Law, professionalism, honesty, ethics and morality, the Family Court administration operatives on the key criteria of secrecy, conciliated cover-up and gagging orders.

    The media are doing what the readers want and that includes publishing stories that will sell papers and generate revenue streams using hot topic subjects such as the infamous secret family courts. It is the UK family court administrations who are engineering these showcases to give the perception of ‘justice’ in a few open court hearings. Reality of incompatible behaviors is executed in all of the other 99% of Court hearings carried out predominantly in the lower courts, which are still subject to gagging and secrecy constraints.

    Please clarify whether you have actually been to secret Family Court hearings?

    Again, if the children’s welfare was truly paramount as per the UN Convention On the Rights Of The Child, the Children’s Act then ALL PROCEEDINGS MUST BE CARRIED OUT IN PUBLIC, WHERE ALL THE EVIDENCE CAN BE INDEPENDENTLY, TRANSPARENTLY & OPENLY TESTED. The Courts already mention the names of children and the newpapers publish photos in cases of criminal behaviour or trauncy – so why should their be exceptions?

    It is a pity you censored the Lord Justice quotes on the recalcitrant mother, as these were all public judgments and freely available on the internet including http://www.bailii.org. One such judgement is the Neutral Citation Number [2004] EWCA Civ 512 Re C attended by the Environmental Law Centre McKenzie friend.

    ** ELC McKenzie’s have assisted in many cases can provide facted evidence if you still perceive ‘contradictory conspiracy theories’. This facted evidence has to be sadly provided outside of this blog, so as not to breach the ‘bullshit’ ulterior motivated UK Family Court secrecy clauses – RSVP **

    Kind regards,

    R Chauhan

    • You refer to a Miss Haines. The person who posted a reply to your comment was me not Miss Haines. I am the author of this blog.

      Typo or no typo it is wildly incorrect to state that 99% of residence orders are sole residence (which I think is what you are asserting). I don’t think that the decision of any government department not to bother correcting such a figure is an indication of its veracity.

      You ask me to ‘Please clarify whether you have actually been to secret Family Court hearings?’. I have been to such hearings almost daily for the past 8 years.
      If commenters want to make reference to quotations from judgments which are legitimately available on bailli or elsewhere they should link to them rather than citing them out of context. This blog is run in my own personal time and not for financial gain, and I am neither going to spend my own time researching the source of such quotations nor am I going to run the risk of offending against s12 Administration of Justice Act 1960 because of lazy commenting.

      The contradiction is between your particular brand of theory about the nature of the corruption and the end to which it is aimed, and the views of some others who are equally cynical about the system: in essence the conundrum is: are the state trying to whisk away children from their parents at all costs, or are the state trying to leave them with one abusive parent (at the expense of the other) at all costs? Or, just a thought, perhaps neither is true. The fact that the system is flawed and that it creates injustice in some cases does not mean that there is a malicious or sinister motive behind it, and this is what I mean when I describe your views as a ‘conspiracy theory’.

  19. Addendum….

    I have also noticed that you have censored out the statement in the 6th para in my first post.

    …….yet she is rewarded at every stage and does not even have to attend court proceedings (several documented instances) [edited out owing to reporting restrictions]

    The paragragh you heavily censored are documented and transcripted facts ie. CAFCASS and ‘others’ have [edited out by lucy], which even the Environmental Law Centre Mckenzies have witnessed first hand. No controlled lawyer or barrister would would ever make an admission such as this as it would be immediately career limiting for them.

    Sadly, utilmately it is our children, the next generation who suffer at the end of the day due the oppressive and seriously widespread and incompatible practices of the secret family courts and most its most of its financially/power driven and aligned supporters.

    Thank you.

    Kind regards,

    R Chauhan.

    • I have edited out material which is potentially libellous or offensive to others or which appears to offend against the law. I do not know if the case you are referring to (and hence the individual professionals you criticise) could be identified from your comment. Since you have now chosen to post a bailli citation it was self evidently a good job I censored this element of your post. I have edited out in your subsequent comment.

  20. Thank you for the correction on the Miss Haines etc…. my accidental oversight… and my apoligies.

    Sadly, we have to agree to disagree on your summation of ‘condictory conspiracy theories’ aspect as there is ample contrary evidence held by ELC gathered by its McKenzie’s friends to support otherwise. I am going to stick the figures quoted as this is my belief and even Sir Geldof quoted that sole parent custody was in the 90’s of percent. Further, my ex-barrister, a deputy Judge confirmed the same, including a court customer relations officer – both in private. If the figures were grossly wrong or inaccurate then I am inviting the DCA/LCD/Ministry-of-Justice to make available all the data from the closely guarded Familyman electronic database, obliterating personal identities to prove otherwise. FYI, I have asked the administration for this information they have refused provide this data in the form of legitimate DPA request citing effectively that it is not held. I think again we will have to disagree again here.

    The injustices cannot be described lessoned to be described as ‘some cases’, meaning a few cases here and there. They are widespread, systematic, endemic and persistent (WASP). You have been exceptionally lucky if you have never witnessed any these in your 8 years of family Court exposure and perhaps the administration in a fraction of cases (my guesstimate at less than 1%) are wholly genuine and act on the overriding objective of the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration.

    Secondly, to your comments re system being ‘flawed’, from my experiences the problem lies firmly and squarely with the administration ability to execute the Law. From my own personal experineces and what I have been advised by the Environmental Law Centre McKenzie’s, and every other parent (both genders) in similar positions, I/we would all have to strongly disagree with your own personal views and experiences.

    Again, the option of the secret family court reality and wrongdoings is available from the Environmental Law Centre if you REALLY want to learn the truth about the endemic practices of the UK secret family court system witnessed firsthand by ELC McKenzie’s. The offer remains open and you can find the contact information at the Environmental Law centre (the only NGO charity lawcentre in the UK) via their website at http://www.elc.org.uk.

    You will be glad to know that I will not be making any more posts. I speak from personal experience which is fully documented, transcripted and ready for any independent forensic analysis outside of the UK. I commend you on creating this blog despite the implied threats from the almighty and powerful Family Court administration which speaks for itself about openness and transparency.

    Thank you.
    Kind regards,
    R Chauhan

  21. Perhaps these bailii ie state controlled links will help, shame they do notpublish all such judgements as others make money out of publishing them……

    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2009/644.html

    Or this one on family law week:

    http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed37073

    etc etc etc if we had egos rather gettng the system to behave properly bearing in mind the Government love creating more dysfunctional families as we are all witnessing.

  22. The initial OP appeared to argue that using a McKenzie Friend to assist you in Court had it’s disadvantages, and Solicitors are more trustworthy, industrious and held higher standards. The weakness in this argument is: It ignores the Judge unspoken observations and legal training, as is well known many are ex- Barristers, in the Civl Court Solicitors or former Solicitors, and whilst acting on the bench [or in Chambers] they can soon sniff out the justice or injustice of a case.

    Before the hearing the Judges have read the case papers, spotted the flaws in a case, and noted ‘what the witness statements state’, in short they have weighed in the balance the case strengths, all a McKenzie Friend can do is to draw the Judges attention to the strong points in a case and / or be silent on the adverse opinions expressed, or to offer a plausible explantion ‘how this error of judgment [sic] might have came about? A McKenzie Friend is usually more able, confident and ‘worth listening to’ than the client he assists. I think its fair to say that Judges lean towards all Defendants ‘having a fair hearing’, they also like the idea that an unrepresented Defendant is aided and not handicapped in any way. They appreciate that the Legal Profession more often than not deliver little, but charge much. If you dispute this -you should, you should, then do you dispute most Barristers arrive in Court having not read the papers thoroughly and arrive in Court mentally prepared to bluff there way through another routine case. McKenzie Friends do at least put in the time and effort required to present a ‘better case’, than most Learned Friends.

    • I think the original point was that there is no quality assurance, ethical training or consumer protection framework with a Mckenzie – this is not to say mckenzies are not good at what they do or that they are unethical – just that there is no satisfactory way of ascertaining this or of seeking redress if they fall short.

      I’m not sure what you mean vis a vis a
      Mckenzie telling the judge – mckenzies do nit usually have rights of audience.

      As for your assertion about poor preparation by counsel or solicitors, it’s certainly not my experience and if an advocate were to attend court unprepared they should expect a complaint to be made. That’s not to say that an experienced advocate can’t get to a point where she is able to very efficiently prepare a brief, discarding information and potential points that experience tells her are not material to the outcome. But that’s the advantage a trained and experienced advocate has: being able to home in on the core issues that will be win or lose a case, discarding the points which are extraneous and a potential distraction to a judge.

  23. Shaun O'Connell

    I have no doubt that in economically distressed times sone family lawyers may lose their income and have to look for alternative employment.

    One has to ask if new practice direction by LJ Wall on private law cases is an example of the complaints often made by parents that the system feeds itself.

    If private law is to be simplified to save money [and we won’t waste public money on needless fact finding hearings etc – then is this is now admitting it was all buisness for the lawyers in the first place?] There can be no argument as the system is bound in law on the best interests principle [which is nothing more tha a rubber stamp of any court decision or action by any child welfare professional!]

    I have always argued that unless involvement of public law or Police then simply sort out time. Nothing more or less. How much time and money has been wasted previously?

    Long live the recession

  24. Hello im having trouble finding out the contact number to obtain a mckenzie friend. for my family law case . hope fully you may be abl to assit me in this . your truly colette webb

    • Hi Colette,
      Most people rely upon friends to act as their mckenzie friends, although there are a number of organisations that provide mckenzie friends either free or on a paid for basis.
      You might find it helpful to read my related posts here and here and then if you still want to find a “professional” mckenzie and do not know anyone who can give you a personal recommendation I think you will find most of the main organisations by googling “mckenzie friend” on google.co.uk.
      Best of luck,
      Lucy

  25. Kathryn Szrodecki

    Hi
    I am considering training as a McKenzie friend, having read the above, which training course would you recommend as the best or at least most thorough available. I am London based, but would be happy to travel.

    Regards

    Kathryn

  26. Hi All,

    I read the article with some interest to say the very least. I’ve been a paralegal and an expert witness for many years, and have become a professional lay advocate or McKenzie friend in the last year or so.

    I do get a bit annoyed with family cases taking on a dimension of ‘winning and losing’. There are no winners or losers in children’s act matters, usually the child or children lose out.

    I think anyone acting as a mckenzie who submits letters to court needs to be very careful about their choice of words! A Mckenzie cannot themselves ‘submit’ evidence not are they witnesses. A Good Mckenzie knows how to be impartial without sounding biased or unsympathetic to their client. YES it is always better to have a GOOD solicitor or barrister representing your interests in almost every case, but if you are tasked as a McKenzie friend, remember, its not a personal crusade and every case has two sides. IMHO a great many personal statements made by LIP’s have a sense of urgency and a danger of demonstrating ‘point scoring’ behaviour, which most judges simply roll their eyeballs at.

    Frankly, if the tale is true, I am totally appalled that someone who is supposed to be supporting their LIP has written a letter which could be framed as defamatory. I just hope that’s their last case.

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