Litigants in person and McKenzie friends—public law
Produced in partnership with Maud Davis of TV Edwards LLP
Litigants in person and McKenzie friends—public law

The following Family guidance note Produced in partnership with Maud Davis of TV Edwards LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Litigants in person and McKenzie friends—public law
  • Background
  • Practice guidance
  • Litigant in person without assistance
  • Litigant in person assisted by McKenzie friend

Background

Every party to care proceedings is entitled to a fair hearing, and the parents and child are entitled to the protection of their art 6 rights (right to a fair trial) under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as incorporated into the Human Rights Act 1998. There is no obligation to use a solicitor, although in care proceedings, as opposed to private law children proceedings, legal aid remains available for both the child and the parents, and to anyone else with parental responsibility, regardless of means, so the majority of parents are legally represented. Litigants in person are comparatively rare in that context. In other proceedings, such as applications for the discharge of care orders, the legal aid position differs, and it is more common to find parents acting for themselves. Moreover, other relatives of the child (who do not have parental responsibility) may become parties to care proceedings, and may not be able to afford legal representation.

There are three broad situations that may arise in public children proceedings:

  1. a litigant representing themselves, conducting their own case, and acting as their own advocate

  2. such a person exercising their rights of audience, but with the help of a McKenzie friend, and

  3. where a litigant in person asks that another person, who is not a qualified lawyer with rights