President of the Family Division, James Munby delivered a speech at Families Need Fathers’ AGM last month, in which he referred to McKenzie Friends as a ‘problem’. He does back track and go on to praise lay advisors, but his choice of words given the delicate aspects involved is pretty poor.
This is what he says:
“A big problem in the family courts are, of course – I shouldn’t use the word problem … that gives completely the wrong impression. Another big issue is McKenzie Friends.”
But he does use the word problem. And it belies how he views lay advisors, whether informed by personal experience or prejudice. It’s also clear that he hasn’t read the latest reports on legal aid and McKenzie friends, which suggest that lay advisors are not hindering the process in any way.
The questions asked during the AGM are interesting, and the speech itself, though really nothing more than a light nod to shared parenting and a resume of Munby’s efforts, is worth reading too. We remain unconvinced by Munby’s attempts at being a judge of the people, but as long as he’s keeping the discussion of reform on the table, we’ll tolerate him.