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The Society of Professional McKenzie Friends Ltd.

Practice Guidance: McKenzie Friends (Civil and Family Courts)

1) This Guidance applies to civil and family proceedings in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division), the High Court of Justice, the County Courts and the Family Proceedings Court in the Magistrates’ Courts.1 It is issued as guidance (not as a Practice Direction) by the Master of the Rolls, as Head of Civil Justice, and the President of the Family Division, as Head of Family Justice. It is intended to remind courts and litigants of the principles set out in the authorities and supersedes the guidance contained in Practice Note (Family Courts: McKenzie Friends) (No 2) [2008] 1 WLR 2757, which is now withdrawn.2 It is issued in light of the increase in litigants-in-person (litigants) in all levels of the civil and family courts.

The Right to Reasonable Assistance

2) Litigants have the right to have reasonable assistance from a layperson, sometimes called a McKenzie Friend (MF). Litigants assisted by MFs remain litigants-in-person. MFs have no independent right to provide assistance. They have no right to act as advocates or to carry out the conduct of litigation.

What McKenzie Friends may do

3) MFs may: i) provide moral support for litigants; ii) take notes; iii) help with case papers; iii) quietly give advice on any aspect of the conduct of the case.

What McKenzie Friends may not do

4) MFs may not: i) act as the litigants’ agent in relation to the proceedings; ii) manage litigants’ cases outside court, for example by signing court documents; or iii) address the court, make oral submissions or examine witnesses.

Exercising the Right to Reasonable Assistance

5) While litigants ordinarily have a right to receive reasonable assistance from MFs the court retains the power to refuse to permit such assistance. The court may do so where it is satisfied that, in that case, the interests of justice and fairness do not require the litigant to receive such assistance.

6) A litigant who wishes to exercise this right should inform the judge as soon as possible indicating who the MF will be. The proposed MF should produce a short curriculum vitae or other statement

Continued..

 

1  References to the judge or court should be read where proceedings are taking place under the Family Proceedings Courts (Matrimonial Proceedings etc) Rules 1991, as a reference to a justices’ clerk or assistant justices’ clerk who is specifically authorised by a justices’ clerk to exercise the functions of the court at the relevant hearing. Where they are taking place under the Family Proceedings Courts (Childrens Act 1989) Rules 1991 they should be read consistently with the provisions of those Rules, specifically rule 16A(5A)

 

2  R v Leicester City Justices, ex parte Barrow [1991] 260, Chauhan v Chauhan [1997] FCR 206, R v Bow County Court, ex parte Pelling [1999] 1 WLR 1807, Attorney-General v Purvis [2003] EWHC 3190 (Admin), Clarkson v Gilbert [2000] CP Rep 58, United Building and Plumbing Contractors v Kajla [2002] EWCA Civ 628, Re O (Children) (Hearing in Private: Assistance) [2005] 3 WLR 1191, Westland Helicopters Ltd v Sheikh Salah Al-Hejailan (No 2) [2004] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 535. Agassi v Robinson (Inspector of Taxes) (No 2) [2006] 1 WLR 2126, Re N (A Child) (McKenzie Friend: Rights of  Audience) Practice Note [2008] 1 WLR 2743.