Legal aid cuts open the door to legal woo pedlars

Since we began delving into the history of those behind the Hampstead “Satanic ritual abuse” hoax in early 2015, we’ve become all too familiar with the questionable behaviour of Sabine McNeill and Belinda McKenzie’s “Association of McKenzie Friends”.

This group preys upon desperate “litigants in person” in the family court system. Rather than doing the job of legitimate McKenzie friends, who may accompany those without legal representation to court, hand them relevant papers, and assist by offering quiet suggestions, Belinda and Sabine’s crew are known for taking on dubious cases and using them to promote their own conspiranoid agenda.

This often involves “proving” that the state is “snatching” children from their loving, caring parents and selling them for profit to paedophiles and/or Satanists. In cases such as that of the Musa family, it can include defending demonstrably abusive parents from having their children removed from their care, or even attempting to “rescue” the children by spiriting them out of the country. In the Hampstead case, it has involved accusing dozens of innocent families, teachers, clergy, social workers, police, and others of heinous crimes, in a completely botched attempt to return two abused children to their uncaring mother and her abusive new partner.

Then there’s the “freeman on the land” contingent, represented by people like Neelu Berry. “Freemen”, or “FOTLs”, believe that they don’t have to pay taxes, debts, or mortgages, and that if they use a particular pseudo-legal language, the courts will be forced to accept their non-payment as legal and binding. This amounts to using magical incantations to sweep away debt, and it has resulted in people losing their homes and cars, and in some cases has led to imprisonment.

FOTL advocates prey on the desperate, particularly those with little education and/or a great deal of credulousness, who have run into financial difficulties. In much the same way as Belinda and Sabine’s “Association of McKenzie Friends”, FOTLers latch onto people who are already in legal trouble, and turn their difficulties into catastrophes.

What’s behind this upsurge of legal woo?

A few days ago, we found an article by Emily Dugan of Buzzfeed, on the results of drastic cuts to legal aid services…and suddenly, a great deal fell into place.

Ms Dugan points out that the number of people going into the court system without legal representation has increased by 520% since 2011 (the year when, coincidentally we’re sure, the “Association of McKenzie Friends” was formed).

Alarmingly, Ms Dugan points out that a recent study, published by the University of Birmingham earlier this year, revealed that nearly two-thirds of the almost 200 litigants in person surveyed in Birmingham did not have A-levels. A quarter had no formal qualifications at all. Further, “Only 45% of people said they had understood what was said in court and 22% did not have English as a first language”.

Ms Dugan quoted Andrew Langdon QC, chair of the Bar Council, who said:

Barristers regularly see litigants in person who have no legal training trying to do the job of qualified lawyers in the midst of difficult personal circumstances. It is simply not fair. Not only is there a risk of injustice, litigants in person inevitably, and through no fault of their own, cause delays, which of course costs money. They can struggle to follow court directions and adhere to court timelines, they might focus on the wrong points or misunderstand the law, and they might even have completely the wrong idea as to which legal issues are relevant to their case.

We live in a modern, wealthy, and democratic society that prides itself on its system of … upholding the rule of law. It is disappointing, bordering on disgraceful, that vulnerable individuals are treated in this way.

We would add that these individuals, many of whom have not completed their formal education, or don’t understand English well enough to grasp the finer points of the legal system, create a rich pool of potential victims for people like Belinda or Sabine (in the family courts) or purveyors of FOTL gibberish (in the civil courts). And this doesn’t even begin to address those with mental health challenges who are facing the court system with yet another stroke against them.

Whatever happened to legal aid?

In her article, Ms Dugan identified the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), 2012 as the killing blow to a legal aid system which had been suffering from decades of being chipped away at the edges.

Since the introduction of LASPO, the number of litigants in person has skyrocketed. Ms Dugan points out,

Ministry of Justice figures reveal that in a quarter of all civil cases fought in the first quarter this year, the defendant did not have a lawyer, an increase of 9% on the same quarter last year. In private family law cases with at least one hearing, the proportion of parties with legal representation dropped from 60% in 2012 to 33% in January to March 2017.

The legal aid budget has been slashed, with the result that the income cutoff for support is tighter than it has ever been, meaning that those with low incomes are walking into court unrepresented.

The government, which has a legal obligation to review the impacts of these changes, has no plans to do so before next year, despite calls from those in the legal profession to look into this severe and growing problem as a matter of urgency.

For those of us concerned with the impact of bottom-feeders such as the “Association of McKenzie Friends”—who will readily admit that they have never won a case (because of your choice of the Illuminati, the Satanic Cabal Wot Rools the World, or the Shape-Shifting Lizard People)—the current legal aid situation is nothing short of shameful…and ultimately dangerous to society as a whole.

Where real legal representation is out of reach for many, conspiranoid thinking begins to feel not just attractive, but downright imperative.

To those who lack the education, language skills, or funding to enter the courts on an equal footing with the well-educated and well-heeled, legal woo will become the tool of last resort. We can foresee this becoming a never-ending cycle, as these people fail in court, leading them to believe they’re playing against a system stacked against them, which will only lead to further vulnerability to a conspiranoid mindset.

This helps to answer the vexing question of how people like Belinda, Sabine, and friends have managed to gain a foothold in the legal system. It’s simple: we left the door wide open.

Image: ajehals, Flickr

44 thoughts on “Legal aid cuts open the door to legal woo pedlars

  1. “Where real legal representation is out of reach for many, conspiranoid thinking begins to feel not just attractive, but downright imperative.

    To those who lack the education, language skills, or funding to enter the courts on an equal footing with the well-educated and well-heeled, legal woo will become the tool of last resort. We can foresee this becoming a never-ending cycle, as these people fail in court, leading them to believe they’re playing against a system stacked against them, which will only lead to further vulnerability to a conspiranoid mindset.”

    The problem is that there IS a conspiracy against low income people, its just that its not shape shifting lizards or the illuminazis- its the government that is supposed to be representatives of the people, but more and more so is representatives of big business instead.
    A not ‘hidden in the shadows’ conspiracy , but a blatant ‘in your face’ conspiracy of indifference to the wants and needs of the public

    Currently here, we have a funding shortfall in both education and hospital funding, to the tune of a hundred million this year, so they are wanting to raise taxes, on people already paying 33% or more on personal income tax- yet at the same time, big business is wanting (and looks likely to get) a major tax cut, where most business are already under 10% tax rates, and the biggest businesses in many cases not only (through ‘fund transfers’ and having head offices in tax havens) pay NO tax, but in some cases get PAID money by the ATO- if big business (ie the top 5 companies) were required to pay the 33% that the average taxpayer pays, we could actually halve our deficient in under 18 months and fully fund the entire budget

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steved, very well written, and the facts in the last paragraph if true, and astonishing – that we could halve our deficit in under 18mths. Imagine what you could do with that kind of money. We could get back what has vanished in the UK – Equality statements always conveniently gloss over the real issue, that of poverty. Bring on Jeremy Corbyn….

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Indeed and it’s one reason I’ve railed against the dills ( some quite prominent journalists) that have come out a’moaning and a’groaning that the booting of Uber in London is an assault on “capitalism” and who have completely ignored the fact that the Silicone Valley conglomerate is another tax avoiding entity like Google etc sucking the wealth out of Britain and creating new demoralizing work conditions without protections for workers.
    Quite apart from Uber’s safety breaches, I can still recall the days when I was only paid the average wage but could still afford a Black Cab late at night if the Tube had stopped running.

    The age of Artificial Austerity has played havoc on British life and all it has done is allow the mass movement of capital & profits from the UK at the expense of the masses and the removal of legal aid (I see similar has happened in some Australian states) is just one dire result among many.

    (OK…nursie has ordered me to get off my soapbox & to stop addressing the other patients and has confiscated my red flag).

    To be fair British judges and magistrates are also aware of the problems of un-represented litigants and will go out of their way to be as fair as possible but those without a lawyer struggle against an overwhelming system.
    It gives opportunists like Bellend McKenzie and even Angela Power-Disney to give false hope to the desperate. How do we know what went on in the case Ange is involved in which had a recent suicide and what bullshit does she feed the hapless mother when we know she is a blatant opportunistic liar?

    # a court decision will come down in the next couple of days in the Duffy Vs Google case where Google have appealed her defamation win. While everyone is quietly optimistic that Google will fail it’s nerve wracking as a number of other libel cases depend upon the decision.
    It’s only taken 9 years and it’s disgraceful how politicians have ignored the way these internet giants have looted the tax coffers and avoided any responsibility even as Theresa May finally says she will crack down on terrorist postings.

    ## interesting that a new assault on Google has begun with a plaintiff who had already won damages after the search results appeared yet again in Google’s listings. Sadly this only applies to Australia where courts decided Google are publishers even after they threw around $12M in lawyers to prove otherwise.
    In an early case in the UK at the very beginning of internet a judge decided Google were not publishers but that could be challenged.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/nov/24/brisbane-man-sues-google-for-750000-over-defamatory-search-results

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OK gang, on the count of three, I want to see eyes rolling upwards and palms placed squarely on faces…

    3…2…1…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I found it more worrying they way she groomed Jake, I think Rupert got the measure of him in the end. Poor Jake was so vulnerable he would do anything for her, and the way she used to sweet talk him was vomit making. One thing people like Angela have in common is, this bible crap, they seem to think if they make out they ate deeply religious, they can get away with doing or saying anything and God will forgive them. That includes grooming, making up anything, and abusing people. There are pleanty of so called anti child abuse campaigners who do that.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The amount of blatant, unsubstantiated defamation that spews out of JournoAngie’s bloated kisser in that one is jaw-dropping, even by her appalling standards.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am liking that 107 are sane, and that she was scraping the bottom of the barrel to get just 7 likes!!!
    (I know that the likes are from an earlier date, but do find it funny that she liked it to 8 other people, and the video itself has only 7 likes!)

    And she didnt include poor old rupee on the likes list, its almost as if he couldnt see this important video about him…

    oh wait, he CANT can he…
    because he’s in jail…
    because of you angie….
    (I wonder how much longer before you end up there with him?)

    Liked by 2 people

  8. 32:27 – “If they don’t have guns, they’re gonna have a hard time arresting me…I’ve seen these British dudes trying to fucking arrest people. I’ll fucking box their fucking ears. I’m small but I’m scrappy and I don’t go down easy…You can’t fuck with me. YOU CAN’T FUCK WITH ME!”

    Sooo, how did that work out for yer, Roops?

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Good write-up on the issues around legal aid funding, EC.

    Private Eye has also covered this a few times over the last few years.

    They’ve also expressed concern over the reduction in funding and staffing for court interpreter services, leaving many people whose first language isn’t English highly vulnerable.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Very pleased to report I had a text from Janice Duffy simply stating “I won” which means Google lost their appeal.
    Will be fascinating to read the judgement.

    I just wish RD could sue Google / Facebook etc likewise in a UK court.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Really important article thank you. Completely agree with EC’s conclusion that the legal system has left the door wide open for this. Completely agree with the QC that it is disgraceful that vulnerable individuals are treated in this way (maybe there is a typo in this quote ‘system of system’, second para) – not to mention the lack of redress on breaches of court and restriction orders and other blatant breaches of the law, etc, etc.

    Here’s the update on the consultation regarding MKF that was issued (Feb) and closed (June 2016):

    Consultation: Reforming the courts’ approach to McKenzie Friends

    Update September 2017: A large number of responses were received to this consultation paper, covering a broad range of issues. The Judicial Executive Board has decided to establish a further judicial working group to review the original proposals in the consultation paper in the light of these responses. That group will report to the Board in the first instance.

    https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/consultation-reforming-the-courts-approach-to-mckenzie-friends/

    Liked by 2 people

  12. And if I were Rupert or a member of his family I wouldn’t want this video being repeatedly shared around the internet. Not that there have been any complaints, possibly because one of the things that got Rupert in jail was the repeated sharing of videos of other peoples children against the wishes of their parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You know who he reminds me of at that point?
    ScrappyDoo, (ScoobyDoos little brother(??))
    I remember a shot of him being held up in the air by his collar, kicking and punching the air frantically, and totally futilely, basically saying the same thing “I’m small but I’m scrappy”
    (I DONT remember ScrappyDoo saying “You can’t fuck with me. YOU CAN’T FUCK WITH ME!” though, might have been a bit much for Saturday morning kids cartoons although I can see it fitting right in with his character lol)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I was reading a comment on Jake’s page he made about how sharing knowledge is a full time job, in which his friend agreed. He really does feel that he is important somehow. Agreed Jake is a misguided fool.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. He hasn’t learnt from his 2 sectioning’s at all.

    Still names the sister and brother from Hampstead.

    It is so obvious this makes him feel important.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. What an arrogant ignorant idiot he is. Now getting a quick education courtesy of HM Prisons. This woman is too much. A sociopath.
    I notice on her timeline the revolting slag Araya Manna is spouting absolute bullshit about the Las Vegas shootings even claiming it would have to have been a sniper to shoot so many people once again showing the total moronic ignorance of the anti-Semitic crow unable to even absorb the fact the man was shooting into a crowd of 1000s who were like sitting ducks.

    I simply cannot stand these ghastly creatures: every tragedy must be absorbed into their lunacy. These are the sort of soulless scumbags who demand Sandy Hook parents dig up their dead children to prove they existed.
    (editor: that’s enough personal insults GOS even if it does make you feel better as it does me)

    Liked by 2 people

  17. And the way Rupert talks to Angela!

    I can’t stand Angela but what was she even thinking about buying him a return plane ticket.

    Her loins obviously but why??

    He’s a CONTROL FREAK.

    No wonder he’s not in any relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Knew it was something like that
    (see what I mean about no matter what the topic, someone here will know something about it lol)

    Liked by 1 person

  19. That’s definitely not Yannis, though. Check out the English:

    Mind you, EVERYONE is Yannis in Yolande’s head. Yannis is to her what RD is to Kristie Sue and Doug Mesner is to Some Arsehole.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Step 1 – go into your Facebook account controls
    Step 2 – click on “delete this account”
    Step 3 – there is no step 3

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Annoyingly, you can’t delete a Facebook account. You can only deactivate it. It remains intact but dormant and can be reactivated at any time simply by logging in.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Step 1 – delete all the content from your Facebook account
    Step 2 – click on “deactivate this account”
    Step 3 – there is no step 3
    🙂 🙂

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I remember showing this video in the pub. Caused much hilarity with bags of crisps being thrown at Rupert.
    Many rude words were used. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Excellent post EC, very informative.

    A couple of excerpt from that link TN:

    2.12 Broadly speaking, matters falling within the scope of the performance of ancillary
    functions include taking formal steps in the litigation, although this does not extend to
    signing statements of truth on behalf of the litigant or acknowledging service of process, as
    these activities may only be carried out by the LIP or an authorised legal representative i.e., a
    practising lawyer32. It does not include giving legal advice,33 which is a separate and non-reserved legal activity, nor does it include administrative assistance such as, ‘photocopying
    documents, preparing bundles, delivering documents to opposing parties and the court’. (Guilty Angela). op
    3.7 The two studies highlight perceived advantages of any increased use of McKenzie Friends
    (fee-paid or otherwise) e.g., increased access to justice for LiPs, greater equality of arms,
    greater consumer choice. They also outline risks posed by any increase in use e.g., a lack of
    consumer protection by reason of a lack of effective regulation; agenda-driven McKenzie
    Friends; the provision of poor quality advice to litigants; a lack of insurance cover; the
    possibility of overcharging litigants of limited means; and lack of confidentiality. (Guilty Angela).

    (Part 23 sets out the procedure for making an application.)
    (4) Where a litigant intends to have the assistance of a court supporter under rule
    3.22(1) or makes an application under rule 3.22(2), the litigant must supply the
    court with the following evidence verified by a statement of truth: (Too funny Angela).op
    (a) a short curriculum vitae or other statement setting out the court
    supporter’s relevant experience; (Too funny Angela). op
    (b) a statement confirming that the court supporter has no interest in the
    case and understands that
    (i) their role is limited to providing support of the form set
    out in rule 3.22(1)(1)(a) – (d); and
    (ii) that the duty of confidentiality. (Too funny Angela). op

    That’s Angela buggered then so!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I don’t have any doubt that paid McKenzie friends have emerged to fill the gap left by legal aid funding. There are some ghastly stories and there is no redress against them, unless a senior judge is prepared to bar individuals as happened with the President of the family division with Nigel Baggaley (see http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/1496.html), but senior judges have other things to do than police an occupational group. And obviously McKenzies don’t have compulsory insurance as the legal professions have so if you lose your money to a McKenzie Unfriend, it’s lost. So it’s a complete lottery and for every good McKenzie there are a couple of others who are incompetent, fradulent, or pushing their own agenda.

    However there isn’t a significant issue with the interpreter contract now. It was fairly dodgy at the start-up 5 years ago, but a completely fake rosy glow has descended over the previous haphazard arrangements. Interpreters failed to turn up under the old arrangements and they sometimes fail now, but over 98% of appointments are filled, the number of trials failing becuase of a lack of an interpreter is tiny compared with other causes and they are almost always of reliable quality (under the old arrangements one interpreter turned to the jury while the defendant was giving evidence and said “why are you listening to this man, he’s obviously guilty?”). It doesn’t give as good a deal to interpreters as the old rules, which has obviously lost it a lot of friends.

    Liked by 1 person

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