The first McKenzie Friend was created out of the need for legal help due to the lack of money to pay professionals in 1970.
In 2009 I began acting as McKenzie Friend and web publisher for Maurice J Kirk BVSc. Since 14 October 2013, he has been held ‘on remand’ in HMP Cardiff and asked me to continue to uphold the level of quality for this ‘brand’.
In June 2011 a number of us, including Belinda McKenzie, Maurice J Kirk and Ian Josephs, met at the Royal Courts of Justice to support the Nigerian Musa couple whose five children had been taken by Haringey Police without paperwork in April 2010. Acknowledged to be the worst of all child snatching cases, McKenzie Friends continue to help them since they were imprisoned for seven years!
For the Musa hearing I had produced T-Shirts for ‘McKenzie Angels‘ as supporters for court hearings – with the aid of the late Paulette Cooper. For judges do notice when public galleries are full and even asked us not to take notes in the criminal court of the Musas! Do they know that justice is far from being delivered in their court rooms? That’s why ‘veteran victims’ Maurice Kirk and Norman Scarth have been behind our petition to Abolish the ban on recording court proceedings.
In July 2011, Ian Josephs and I were refused as McKenzie Friends for the Musas, also after producing a hand written CV there and then. Other victims of child snatching have said they have been told they can’t have Ian Josephs as a McKenzie Friend.
On other occasions I was asked to leave half way through the procedures and to come ‘with proper attire’, as the T-shirt didn’t seem appropriate, or ‘because I don’t understand confidentiality or ‘because I was not independent’, as on 10 December 2013 in Lincoln Court on behalf of the Portuguese Pedros.
In February 2012, Belinda McKenzie suggested to form the Association of McKenzie Friends as an unincorporated body of volunteers.
On 08 April 2014, Belinda and I were ‘joined to the case’ of Melissa Laird for the purpose of costs.
- John Hemming MP called it a ‘dreadful order’ and blogged: costs awarded against volunteer advisers
- Christopher Booker wrote in The Telegraph: Costs ruling in family court penalises those helping wronged parents
- Veteran Ian Josephs (he got the first child back from his local council in 1961) defends us on this blog.
- a ‘culture change‘ is needed;
- McKenzie Friends need to be portrayed in a more positive way in the fourth of its 15 recommendations.
Meanwhile an online war goes on via comments in the Law Gazette about the report, while we were confronted with:
- an increase from £80 to £155 as the fee for an Application Notice is one of the changes to High Court Fees 2014;
- the Admin Court not wanting to accept our application as we were ‘not on the record‘;
- eventually realising that we had been ‘joined to the case for the purposes of costs‘ and taking our papers, after having happily accepted our money. However, the refund that was due to having accepted a Judicial Review that should not have been accepted caused Belinda to be sent up and down between two of their offices twice. It’s very strange when antiquated thinking in historic buildings tries to become ‘commercial’.
It’s all about money. What if
- the judiciary elite re-visited the wisdom with which the writers of the 1694 Bank of England Act wrote their words to “avoid the serious oppression of Their Majesties’ subjects“?
- the Treasury Solicitors woke up to the Bradbury Pound as the historic precedent for honest money?
- anybody interested in researching reform studied this analysis by late American lawyer Suzon Forscey-More?
And regarding McKenzie Friends, how about acknowledging the difference between the need for McKenzie Friends in Family Courts and prisons, besides other civil or criminal matters:
- ‘friendship‘ varies from ‘tea and sympathy’ to sending cash for stamps and being at the end of a phone for prisoners;
- ‘advice‘ varies from answering questions to writing letters and making phone calls to Social Services;
- ‘assistance‘ can mean drafting and submitting documents to courts;
- ‘litigation‘ means effectively running and managing a case which could include the right of audience or at least advising the litigant during court hearings;
- ‘advocacy‘ means campaigning in the public interest – to us at least
- or making Freedom of Information and Data Subject Access requests – in the public interest.
The term ‘litigation friend‘ is used on some forms and seems to have yet certain implications.
The right of audience may be on top of the ‘tree of rights’, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee fair trials and compensation and is ‘up to the discretion of the individual judge’.
Web publishing aka exposure or publicity – is the very soul of justice:
It is the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. — Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832)
In 2014, we seem to need many more articles on blogs and petitions to counteract abuse in courts and corridors of power…
Our latest petition is Release Robert Green on Compassionate Grounds, Please!