mckenzie friends family court secrets british court of appeal

Origin of McKenzie Friends

This was a UK divorce case McKenzie vs McKenzie before no-fault started. The husband, Levine McKenzie, who was the applicant for divorce, initially had Legal Aid, but by the time the case came to trial, that legal aid had been withdrawn.

Unable to fund legal representation, McKenzie had broken off contact from his solicitors, Geoffrey Gordon & Co. and proceeded to represent himself.

One day before the hearing, Geoffrey Gordon & Co. sent the case to an Australian barrister in London, Ian Hanger, whose qualifications in law in Australia did not allow him to practise as a barrister in London. Hanger hoped to sit with his client to prompt him, take notes, and suggest questions in cross-examination, thereby providing what quiet assistance he could from the bar table to a man representing himself.

The trial judge ordered Hanger not to take any active part in the case (except to advise McKenzie during adjournments) and to sit in the public gallery of the court.

The case went against Levine McKenzie.

McKenzie then appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that he had been denied representation.

On 12 June 1970, the Court of Appeal ruled that the judge’s intervention had deprived McKenzie of assistance to which he was entitled, and ordered a retrial. The three judges of the Court of Appeal ruled that the judge should have allowed Levine McKenzie to have a person to remain to satisfy that fairness and the interest of justice is served.

Thus we have the legal definition of McKenzie friend (a person who attends at court to assist a party to proceedings.)