Imagine the unimaginable – you have been convicted of a crime that you didn’t commit!
Your trial lawyers have told you that there is no hope of an appeal. You can’t afford more legal advice from a criminal law specialist so you decide to look for a cheaper alternative.
McKenzie friends – cheaper and just as effective?
Think very carefully before hiring someone legally unqualified to conduct your case. As Paul Wright recently found out, it can cost you dearly.
Mr Wright was injured in 2004 when three plastic bags were left inside him during an operation. He hired a “McKenzie Friend”, George Rusz, to support him during his claim. He ended up with only £20,000 in damages from the NHS.
To make matters worse he had to pay £75,000 in costs to the NHS because of the incompetent way Mr Rusz had conducted the case. This meant that despite winning he had to pay out £55,000.
Fortunately, Mr Wright recovered those costs and the damages he should have received had his case been dealt with properly after he sued Mr Rusz for giving negligent advice. He was awarded £336,759 in total. This finally came fifteen years after his injuries.
There is a risk that he may be out of pocket a lot longer. If Mr Rusz can’t, or won’t, pay it could be years before he sees the money, if ever.
The consequences of poor and unregulated advice
If you were to use a McKenzie Friend, or any unqualified person, in conducting a criminal appeal the consequences might be worse than a financial loss. The Court of Appeal has the power to order, in appeals without merit, that some time already served should not count towards your sentence. You may also face a hefty claim for prosecution costs.
McKenzie Friends may have a legitimate and useful purpose when they stick to their original purpose and role – providing moral support, taking notes, and giving advice in court – and do it competently.
Before instructing a person to assist with your case you will want to ensure that they are properly regulated and insured to avoid the problems created for Mr Wright. If in doubt, check it out.
Choose to instruct a specialist in criminal law and proceedings
A common misconception that may drive potential clients towards the use of McKenzie friends is publicity about legal costs and the availability of legal aid.
We cannot stress enough that our legal advice and representation is always free to you if you are interviewed by the police. This remains true whether you are under arrest or having a voluntary interview.
Our specialist criminal lawyers can advise you on whether you have a defence, and help you put that defence forward, advising on prospects of success and instructing experts to help along the way.
As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about a criminal offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.
If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.
In a case involving an advice on appeal from the Crown Court legal aid may be available to provide initial advice and take the matter forward where there are arguable grounds.
Alternatively you can use the contact form below: