Yesterday’s post about Belinda McKenzie’s position as manager of the London-based 160 Fleet Street Chambers generated a good deal of discussion both on the blog and on Twitter, where a number of barristers expressed dismay:
Hoaxtead Research readers pointed out that not only does Belinda have no legal training or background, but that her actions would suggest that she has little regard for the law.
We were also perturbed to hear from readers who wrote us privately, stating that Belinda had actually contacted them via email stating that she works closely with an independent barrister, and asking whether they would be interested in having this barrister handle their family law case.
The idea of Belinda beating the bushes for business is reminiscent of the old days, when she’d stand outside the Royal Courts of Justice trawling for the desperate and vulnerable, in hopes of taking on new cases as a McKenzie friend. And the idea that any reputable firm would permit her to act in this way on their behalf is chilling, to say the least.
Commenter Mark Trellis pointed out yesterday,
The fact Belinda has picked up people – even sought them out – outside the Royal Courts of Justice etc at their most vulnerable, with as much idea as Sabine of her role and boundaries as a McKenzie Friend is one that should be of concern to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
If she cannot comprehend numerous directions regarding the identification of witnesses in Sabine’s trial and contravening these, what hope do clients of this firm have when they trust this woman with their private information? Belinda’s new method of recruiting those she thinks she can ‘help’?
The relevant governing body is the Bar Standards Board, but that quibble aside, we completely agree.
Belinda’s approach to being a McKenzie friend was always less about winning cases, and more about attempting to prove certain points which fit into her conspiracy theories. For example, she and Sabine have openly expressed their conviction that social workers “snatch” people’s children if they “like the look of them”, the implication being that such children are stolen in order to be sold to the highest bidder.
To say that this is not a view which should be espoused by any reputable officer of the court, or their Chambers Manager, is a vast understatement.
Belinda’s recent conviction for contempt of court is also concerning. Despite the fact that she is an educated and intelligent woman, and has spent enough time in and around the courts to know how something as simple as a reporting restriction works, she somehow managed to “forget”—twice—and wind up being found guilty of contempt of court.
And then there is the “client files for money” problem.
Fairly Sane pointed out that during the height of the Hampstead SRA hoax, on one of the fund-raising sites she was running Belinda was offering access to case documents to donors who made particularly large contributions. We objected to this at the time, and shortly thereafter, that option was removed from the fund-raising site. However, the fact that it was ever on offer is deeply problematic.
Should a person who believes that confidential information can be sold to the highest bidder really be entrusted with even the most basic information about clients at a law chambers?
We cannot make any comment at present about the law chambers for which Belinda currently works. However, we will be bringing this matter to the attention of the Bar Standards Board. We’ll let you know what happens.