By Dr Leanne Smith, Senior Lecturer in Law (School of Law and Politics, Cardiff University) and Dr Emma Hitchings, Senior Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*
In mid June 2017, the report of our Bar Council commissioned research on fee-charging McKenzie Friends in private family law cases was published (the full report can be accessed here and an executive summary here).
One of the report’s key messages is that we found little evidence of McKenzie Friends seeking to exercise rights of audience on a regular basis and plenty of evidence that the bulk of the work done by McKenzie Friends is done outside of court. The work McKenzie Friends do in court, we said, is ‘the tip of the iceberg’. This was the finding that the Pink Tape blog outlining Lucy Reed’s perspective on the research focused on, indicating that it was not at all surprising. We hope we can be forgiven here for indulging in a few words in defence of the utility of the research.
We readily accept that many in the legal professions have been aware for some time that paid McKenzie Friends operate predominantly outside court, but research has an important role to play in interrogating anecdotal evidence and providing more systematically derived evidence in order to validate or debunk it. This is no less true because perceived experience is validated by a set of results. In this instance, our hope is that the findings of the research will function as a turning point for discussion on the subject of fee-charging McKenzie Friends in a way that the observations of some professionals who encounter them has not. In addition there are, of course, some more granular observations that we consider important buried in our report, though we will resist spoilers for those who haven’t yet finished reading it…
By Prof Lois Bibbings, Professor of Law, Gender and History (University of Bristol Law School).
One hot sunny day in the middle of June I set out on the train, bacon butty and extra strong coffee in hand, for an afternoon of secret filming at a location I couldn’t talk about.
Weeks earlier I had been contacted by a production company, researching for possible programme content. It soon became clear that others working in the relevant area had had similar approaches. The company, Wall To Wall, the programme, Who Do You Think You Are.
Each episode of WDYTYA takes a celebrity on a journey, investigating their family history. It seeks to tell historical stories in an engaging, human way, with the featured celebrity discovering a gradually unfolding narrative about some of their ancestors. There have been a fair few surprises and twists in the tales told over the 13 series to date, with Danny Dyer’s shock at uncovering a royal lineage perhaps one of the most memorable for me. At the point I was contacted they were working on series 14 and the celebrity at the centre of their investigations remained unknown. Initially I was asked about my research on WW1 conscientious objectors. Then I was given was a name, Evan Meredith, and a little information about the part of his story Wall to Wall were interested in.
Having conducted some initial research, looked at some documents and been sounded/sussed out in person by the director and assistant producer, I was signed up to appear. I was to cover some aspect of one of the stories investigated. It was at this point that everything became pretty clandestine – I signed a scary non-disclosure agreement and, as if by magic, was sent the name of the celebrity.
On 3rd August 2017 it was announced that, a week before, the High Court had rejected a claim, brought in judicial review proceedings by Dr Salman Butt, that the inclusion of his name in an official press release about tackling extremism in universities and colleges was unlawful and in breach of his human rights (Salman Butt v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1930 (Admin)). Relying on information provided by the Home Office Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU), which had opposed the publication of any names, the press release referred to 70 events on university premises in 2014 featuring ‘hate speakers’. However, as the result of an ‘oversight’, six people including Dr Butt, were also identified as ‘expressing views contrary to British values’ on campus. The judgment in this case is the first significant judicial contribution to the debate about the ‘Prevent duty’ created by s.26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (CTSA) which requires schools, universities, the NHS and other institutions to ‘have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. (more…)
The past few years have witnessed a debate in the field of banking and broader financial services law: should the law relating to the duty of care owed by financial services firms to their customers be reformed? The Financial Services Consumer Panel (FSCP) argues that the answer to this question is yes; the current law does not provide consumers with adequate levels of protection, and thus the law needs to be. The current regulatory regime requires firms to treat their customers fairly, however the FSCP believes that banks and other financial services firms should be held to a higher standard and for this reason have advanced reform proposals to address this issue.
The purpose of this blog post is to analyse the content of the reform proposals and assess the viability of any reform, in light of the existing legal regime. It will be argued that, as indicated by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (PCBS) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the proposal advanced by the FSCP is unlikely to improve the law in this area. (more…)