Judge: Family Division (Sir James Munby P)
Citation:  EWHC 1496 (Fam)
This case concerns the very unfortunate behavior of a McKenzie Friend.
Mr Baggaley had acted as a McKenzie Friend on behalf of a father (in one case) and on behalf of a mother (in another case) in family proceedings in the county court. He was a former bouncer and involved with two companies that provided legal advice and legal services: McKenzie Friends 4U Limited and Diy Law Shop Limited.
In the first set of proceedings, he was found to have said to the Chairman of the Bench “you are pathetic.” He had also behaved in a loud and aggressive manner towards the usher in the corridor of the court.
In the second set of proceedings, Mr Baggaley had been aggressive and confrontational towards the father’s barrister. The barrister’s clerk had also received a threatening telephone call from Mr Baggaley. A legal executive at the firm acting for the father reported that Mr Baggaley had been verbally abuse to her and the firm’s receptionist.
The President of the Family Division commented that Mr Baggaley had repeatedly acted in ways that undermined the efficient administration of justice. The President felt that Mr Baggaley’s misbehaviour as a McKenzie Friend had to be controlled. The only way that it could be adequately and appropriately done was by extending a civil restraint order indefinitely.
Certain activities, referred to as “reserved legal activities” are regulated by Legal Services Act 2007. These include exercising a right of audience and the conduct of litigation. Acting as a McKenzie Friend is not a “regulated activity.” Rather, the activities of McKenzie Friends are governed by a rather more nebulous set of principles summarised in the Practice Guidance: McKenzie Friends (Civil and Family Courts. Whether that Guidance in fact applies in the Court of Protection is a moot point; in any event, its principles certainly do.
McKenzie Friends can provide an invaluable service to litigants in person. However, as in this case, those without a clear understanding of the proper role of a McKenzie Friend can do a huge disservice to the litigant in person as well as the court. This judgment helps also make clear when courts should be prepared to step in to prevent abuse.