In his recent judgment in Leigh Ravenscroft v. Canal and River Trust [2016] EWHC 2282 (Ch), Chief Master Marsh considered whether an individual should be entitled to act as McKenzie Friend for the Claimant and if so, whether the McKenzie Friend should then be granted permission to conduct litigation and act as their advocate.

The Master referred to the practice note McKenzie Friends: Civil and Family Courts [2010] 1 WLR 188 and concluded that there were two questions for the Court to consider:

  1. Whether the Applicant is someone that reasonably needs the assistance of a McKenzie Friend; and, if so;
  2. The scope of the assistance of that the Court should permit.

In this particular case, the Master thought that it was reasonable for the Claimant to have the assistance of a McKenzie Friend as he was illiterate and would have had very real difficulty presenting his case without some assistance. Furthermore, it was accepted by both parties that the central point in the claim was of real importance which required determination by the High Court.

In terms of the scope and the assistance that the Court should permit to the McKenzie Friend, the Court carefully considered his credentials, including the fact that he had successfully represented himself in similar litigation, was capable of acting in a helpful and measured way, but had previously been criticised by the High Court for behaviour which had lead to unnecessary costs being incurred. It was the Master’s view that the “McKenzie Friend” on this occasion should not conduct the litigation and it was for the Claimant to request assistance from them as they required it. The Master was prepared to allow the McKenzie Friend to act as an advocate in the proceedings in view of the assistance he had offered so far and the prejudice a refusal would cause to the Claimant. In granting the McKenzie Friend permission to act as advocate, the Master noted the practice note’s requirement that doing so was an “ exceptional course of action and is only justified by unusual circumstances”.