HM Judiciary is set to reassess some of its proposals for regulating the fast-expanding ‘McKenzie friend’ sector after a consultation on banning fee recovery received ‘large numbers of responses’.
The Gazette understands that an update will be posted on the judiciary’s website later today announcing that the Judicial Executive Board has decided to set up a further working group to review its original proposals in light of ‘a large number of responses, covering a broad range of issues’.
In February last year, the judiciary proposed banning fee recovery by McKenzie friends and recommended that unqualified advisers sign up to a code of conduct. It also suggested that the courts’ approach to McKenzies should be legally codified.
The consultation closed in June last year. Since then the judiciary has been unable to give a firm date for publishing a response, saying only that submissions were still being considered.
Today’s update is the first update on the proposals.
Last week, the Gazette reported that an update was expected more than one year after the response window closed.
A judiciary spokesperson told the Gazette: ‘A large number of responses were received to this consultation paper, covering a broad range of issues. The Judicial Executive Board has decided to establish a further judicial working group to review the original proposals in the consultation paper in the light of these responses. That group will report to the board in the first instance.’
Law Society president Joe Egan said: ‘We welcomed the original report, particularly the proposed prohibition through court rules of the recovery of fees as a workable alternative to seeking and enforcing an outright ban. The “number of responses” seems scarcely to explain why it has taken the best part of two years to follow up what was a very good report, but we take the announcement as a sign of progress and look forward to hearing more.’
Paid McKenzie friends have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. In 2015 a former nightclub bouncer was barred from acting as a McKenzie after calling a lawyer a ‘lying slag’. More recently, another paid McKenzie friend, David Bright, was jailed for perverting the course of justice in a family court.