A McKenzie friend is someone with no legal training who nonethless speaks on behalf of a party to court proceedings, trying to assist them in either their claim or defence. Their use has long been a source of controversy.
In the recent case of Ameyaw v McGoldrick & Orsthe presiding Judge refused a McKenzie friend permission to speak on behalf of a litigant in person, stressing the court should be ‘slow’ to allow oral submissions.
Following a one-day hearing this week, the Honourable Mrs Justice Steyn DBE said the claimant was a well-educated, intelligent woman who was clearly able to speak on her own behalf and that it was ‘readily apparent’ from the history of litigation between the parties that the claimant had extensive experience of litigation, including experience representing herself. The claim itself is for libel, malicious falsehood, breach of confidence and misuse of private information. A preliminary hearing was held recently to decide a number of issues, including the claimant’s application for her McKenzie friend to be permitted to make oral submissions on her behalf.
The only reason the claimant gave for asking permission for this individual to make oral submissions on her behalf was, in effect, that she was underprepared because she had assumed that he would be able to. It also emerged that this individual had previously been convicted on counts of falsely representing he was a barrister.
The judge said: ‘Given that McKenzie friends are only permitted to make oral submissions in special or very exceptional circumstances, there was no basis on which the claimant (or the individual hear) could properly have assumed that the court would grant him a right of audience.’
Published on 06/07/2020