When they were bad – they were horrid. The dangers of unregulated McKenzie Friends

On 5th January I made a formal complaint to John Hemming about the activities of the Justice For Families group, [JFF] of which (I assume) he remains the Chair. I raised a significant number of very serious concerns, including that the activities of JFF put vulnerable parents and children at risk of harm by facilitating or encouraging them to leave the country rather than face care proceedings.

I have never received a reply to this complaint. Hopefully, now that Mr Hemming is now freed from the demands of his time spent electioneering, he can devote some time to answering the very serious issues I raise about how JFF operates and how it makes money.

I raise this matter again for two reasons. First because of the recent publication of research in McKenzie Friends which worryingly, establishes that they are more active outside the court room, where presumably they are subject to very little scrutiny – or none at all.

Second, because I have received the following information from a Ms Green about Tim and Julie Haines, the two most active and high profile ‘advisers’ for JFF.

I quote Ms Green’s email to me:

I contacted Julie Haines through a Facebook group. She and her husband Tim Haines met with us claiming that although they don’t cost as much as a solicitor, they would need to be paid as they “don’t work for nothing” and need to “pay their bills”.

However, once meeting with the Haines, they soon went through everything and said there would be a very good chance they could get our children back but there would be a cost. That cost was £1,500. We paid two payments of £500 as we met with them at least 2 maybe 3 times.

These payments paid for a pathetic attempt at a “grounds of appeal” and a “Skeleton argument”. Had we have got a hearing at London’s RCJ we would have had to pay another £500. However our appeal was refused.

We didn’t appear to hear from them after that and we knew they still had the major documents (doctors reports, professionals witness statements,etc). We asked for these back and they said at first they would see what the cost was to send them back and insisted they had a tracking number which already meant they had paid for it. We waited week and nothing. Two weeks…. decided to contact them and they insisted it had been posted and that they would check with their post office. I asked for the tracking number only to be ignored.

My texts and WhatsApp messenger soon got blocked. So we contacted them on facebook. Told them we wanted our documents back and began to tell other members on facebook to warn them only to be abused and blocked then removed feom the group. I found a few others who had encountered the same problem with large payments for next to nothing work (we printed everything) and then the theft of our documents. My husband then contacted Tim and all he got was denial and lies. Then told people on facebook our case “was never going to be successful” yet soon took our money and built up our hopes knowing we lent this money from my pensioner mum and that money was the last of my dad’s from when he died.

They insisted we go to “bank of mum and dad” but they fooled us into thinking we would win this and we didn’t. We travelled to [REDACTED] to them for all this. As much as we love our daughter so much, we now wished we didn’t bother to go to the Haines as we were just desperate targets.

We threatened [to go to] the police and they told us to go ahead, that they wouldnt find anything there. Told us also is we persisted to “harass” them, they would take us to court. So they now go on to make thousands from desperate families for rubbish knowledgeless court bundles and empty promises.

 

In 2010 I had a run in with the Information Commissioner after I left two files of confidential documents in my car. They were stolen after my car was broken into. I was very lucky to escape with a reprimand, rather than the £40K fine which could have been imposed on me as a data controller. The ICO told me that if this happened again, my career would be over.

And this is absolutely as it should be. If I want the status, the interesting work and the money that comes from holding myself out as someone capable of dealing with people’s confidential information and advising them at the most difficult times of their lives, I have to hold myself out to be accountable. If I fail to meet the necessary high standards demanded by my profession. I should be removed from that profession, to protect those vulnerable people who might otherwise fall victim to my incompetence.

So what redress do vulnerable parents have against JFF or the Haines? Are they registered with the ICO as data handlers? What processes does JFF have in place to keep confidential information safe? What is their charging structure? Are they insured? What training do either Tim or Julie have?

We don’t know the answers to any of those questions. JFF and the Haines are utterly unaccountable, offering ‘services’ to the desperate and vulnerable with no guarantee of quality or redress if they get things wrong.  This is simply wrong on every level.

As I doubt very much Mr Hemming will ever answer my questions, perhaps he and the Haines can do what they have been threatening for over a year – take me to court for ‘defamation’. So these issues can be ventilated in open court and a decision made about who is telling the truth.

EDIT – GUIDANCE FOR THOSE CONSIDERING APPROACHING A MKF

See this article I wrote with Paul Magrath and note in particular the questions we think you should be asking:

What questions should I ask?

For those who cannot afford legal representation however, a good quality McKenzie friend can be a real help. We suggest that any one looking to get help from a McKenzie friend should consider the following questions and issues.
1.What are their credentials? Have they been trained in any related or relevant profession (not law, but maybe accountancy, police or social work)?
2.If they charge, how much are they charging and for what?
3.Have you checked whether you could get a similar service from a lawyer? (Some lawyers will “unbundle” services to provide, say, a consultation to help identify the issues in the case and how best to prepare the paperwork.)
4.What level of experience do they have in the kind of proceedings you are engaged in?
5.Can they provide references? Does their website include testimonials and, if so, can you check them?
6.How did you find them? (Or did they find you?) Have you googled them, checked Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media for comments by or about them?
7.Do they have an agenda? If they are from a volunteer organisation, what is their reason for volunteering? Are they promoting an agenda, and if so, does that accord with your case or might it be a distraction?
8.Have you searched on BAILII or other legal websites to see whether they have been cited or referred to in judgments – either adversely (such as those quoted above) or with approval (though it is rare for judges specifically to mention McKenzie Friends unless they cause trouble).

31 thoughts on “When they were bad – they were horrid. The dangers of unregulated McKenzie Friends

  1. John Hemming

    I cannot comment about the allegation you make above as I had a meeting this morning with Tim and Julie before I became aware of the allegation. It is nothing that I recognise. Whether they issue proceedings against you or not is their decision not mine.

    As to your question as to how JFF makes money. If you look at the accounts it doesn’t. I never charge anything for what I do.

    When you claim you had no response to the complaint that is not true. I responded on twitter querying one aspect of the complaint as to whether a particular person was the person you were referring to. Given that you have been asking questions on twitter I take the view that a response on twitter is a response you should accept as being a response.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      You asked me if the woman who had given me information about your activities in France was Stella. I replied that it was. This exchange between us on Twitter can in no way be characterised as a ‘response’ to my complaint.

      My complaint set out a number of extremely serious and evidenced assertions about you as an individual and the JFF in general.

      You preside over an organisation that sends out unregulated, untrained and uninsured ‘advisers’ to take money off desperate and vulnerable parents who face losing their children in care proceedings.

      That you refuse to engage with the issues I raise, other than to offer opaque obfuscation or childish insults is disgraceful.

      I am very glad that the people of Yardley showed sound common sense and did not return you to Parliament.

      Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am very concerned by all unregulated and uninsured MKF as I don’t understand what redress they offer clients when/if they mess up.
      but this is a post about JFF in particular.

      Reply
  2. Lyn Saddington

    I assist parents as a mkf and have no objection to being regulated. I do believe since the government withdrew legal aid there’s a greater need for mkf’s. The other side is that mkf’s mean that you have a choice if you want to self represent or not. Those in this for the right reasons actually care about parents. As much as barristers and solicitors say they do a better job that’s not always the case. Barristers fight a case then walk away, often saying appeals are useless so won’t back them to the legal aid board.
    To give credit to John Hemming at least he has set up an organisation that allows people a chance to appeal. Something has obviously gone wrong in the case above and by your own admission things do go wrong, nobody can say they’ve never had things go wrong.
    I admit Sarah I have concerns over your blogs and their validity because of the people you relied on in the past for facts, they’re known in social media circles to be unreliable, all friends one minute and the next using you to attack John and co. I don’t know Ms Green so can’t comment on this particular scenario.
    In the days of school we were always told to ignore someone we didn’t get in with. You obviously have a problem with john, why keep blogging though? Why not ignore him? You’re supposed to ‘be a barristers of good standing, to me these blogs don’t do anything for anyone’s credibility. We are all supposed to be on the same page of wanting what a right for kids and parents, this sort of thing just causes severe arguments and divides that really are not needed.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I ‘obviously have a problem with John’. I do indeed. I have explained at length, in detail and with evidence why I have the problem. He tells lies and he puts vulnerable families at risk. This is not a ‘school yard spat’ and your attempts to diminish it so do not enhance your credibility in my eyes.

      If you find my credibility to be questionable, then you are very welcome not to trouble yourself to read or comment upon anything on my site.

      Reply
  3. Lian

    1) You must be one of the worst barristers in UK raising the question if you are aware of the laws that punish anyone who uses the Internet to harras, defame and abuse another.

    2) You have something like sexual fantasy with John Hemmings. Reminds me this Movie “fatal attraction” starring Michael douglas and Glen Glose. In this movie Glen becomes obsessed with Michael trying to kill his family, his pets, and Michael. John has Family and a pet. So you are a danger to John Hemming and His family, and his poor cat.

    3) Today in Britain we face challenging moments such as who can govern Britain, what about Soft or hard Brexit? Terrorism the recent Tower block fire, and many serious issues. You have blocked your mind to all these problems and you have decided to harass John Hemmings, by accusing him wrongly. In fact you are the one who have got paid from the Legal aid gravy train few £ thousands failing to protect the children so you can satisfy the local authority and hope that you will represent another victim /parent.

    4) Your deception will not stop there. Lately we have evidence that you have made up false judgements!! Of course you have to do this to support your filthy egomaniac self, seeking attention.

    5) Of Course John Hemmings (your fatal atraction victim) he is not the only one. Those who related or are friends with John are your target to . I mention The Haines couple.

    6) I noticed that the only few people who have suppoted you since you started this are some with mental disabilities.

    7) Have you ever bother to read the Bar council rules? Of course not. To you the word Bar means Gin and tonic shaken but not stir.

    8) When you was challenged by another barrister you run like a child and made a complain, although was you , and also are the abuser the lier, and the disgrace to the legal proffesion.

    So do us a favour and stop harrasing innocent people because your illegal and unlawfull actions , are likely your ticket to the prison, A place that you will find they do not serve Gin and tonic, neither Your weird fantasies of John can last long.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      Err well, Sarah really doesn’t need me to defend her but she isn’t the worst barrister in the world as far as I know.

      I just vomited in my mouth a little when you said there was a sexual attraction to John Hemming, obviously that would be about my personal views, but I suspect Sarah is not a danger to him or his cat.
      From what I can see of Sarah’s online activity she doesn’t block other issues excepting for John, probably because she isn’t obsessed….

      The legal aid gravy train really isn’t …. Your fat cat lawyer clichés do not wash in the 21st century.
      You need to cite some evidence if you are making accusations of creating false judgements, judgements being what judges do, not lawyers.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        I agree with Helen’s assertions that Sarah is highly unlikely to have any sexual fantasies or attraction to John Hemming or pose any danger to his cat. I suspect that John Hemming feels likewise about Sarah and her cat

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I most certainly would not cause any pain to an animal, simply because they had the misfortune to be owned by someone of whom I had a very low opinion. that isn’t the cat’s fault.

          Reply
    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am going to leave Lian’s comment up so that people can see, without any doubt, just what I have to put up with.

      It is intriguing how those I complain about, respond that I must be motivated by some kind of sexual lust. But you will have to make up your minds. Hewson claims I am an ‘obsessive lesbian’ but now I read that I am actually motivated by heterosexual urgings.

      Perhaps I just have a very wide canvass on which to express my sexual longings? But I can reassure you all – if I fancy you, then I will ask you out on a date and try and make conversation. I certainly won’t write angry blogs about you, complain to your professional regulator, ask journalists to investigate you etc. I imagine there are easier ways to get a shag.

      Of course I don’t think Lian remotely believes for a moment that I actually want to have sex with John Hemming. But its an interesting example of how sex is used to shame women – I am supposed to be embarrassed by reference to my motivations being lustful. Of course I am not remotely embarrassed – I am however revolted and feeling a bit sick.

      So you get this opportunity Lian because I think readers need to see you for who you are. But you won’t get another, so don’t waste your time or mine with any more comments on my site.

      Reply
    3. Min

      I really don’t know where to begin but suffice it to say that if this is how you engage with people you don’t agree with then good luck, Lian as you’ll no doubt be needing it.

      Reply
  4. Lian

    BSB guidance for barristers using social media
    We recognise that you are likely to want to use social media for a variety of private
    and professional reasons. We have written this guidance to help you understand
    your duties under the BSB Handbook as they apply to your use of social media. This
    applies to you in both a professional and personal capacity, since the inherently
    public nature of the internet means that anything you publish online may be read by
    anyone and could be linked back to your status as a barrister.
    Remember that you are bound by Core Duty 5 not to behave in a way which is
    likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in you or
    the profession at all times. Unregistered barristers should also bear this guidance
    in mind when using social media; as members of the profession, they are expected
    to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner and are also subject to certain
    Core Duties and other rules. Social media use includes posting material online,
    sharing content, promoting your business as a barrister or networking. This might be
    on sites such as Twitter, content communities such as YouTube, social networking
    sites like Facebook or LinkedIn and internet forums.
    Comments designed to demean or insult are likely to diminish public trust and
    confidence in the profession (CD5). It is also advisable to avoid getting drawn into
    heated debates or arguments. Such behaviour could compromise the requirements
    for barristers to act with honesty and integrity (CD3) and not to unlawfully
    discriminate against any person (CD8). You should always take care to consider
    the content and tone of what you are posting or sharing. Comments that you
    reasonably consider to be in good taste may be considered distasteful or offensive
    by others.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Dear Lian

      If you feel my conduct offends against the Core Duties of my professional obligations – then you must immediately report me to the Bar Standards Board.

      I will of course, should you do so, refer to your comments to me – which are both vile and offensive – as proof of what I have to endure on a daily basis from people who demonstrate what I will diplomatically call ‘bizarre’ behaviour.

      Reply
  5. Pingback: ‘Adoption by Stealth’ – the dangers of rhetoric and the law of unintended consequences | Child Protection Resource

  6. Lian

    I wonder if miss Sarah Phillimore has the time to be a good mother to her children,
    represent clients at family courts miles away from her home,
    abusing, accusing, and bemusing innocent people on line.
    Is she an attention seeker?
    Because her tweets targets people, slandering them, without any human feelings or/and kindness.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Yes. I am an excellent mother.
      If you have concerns I am not, you will need to call the Wiltshire Emergency Duty Team and make a referral.
      Off you go! Let me know how you get on.

      Reply
      1. Lian

        I haven’t made an allegation in regards your ability to be a good or a bad mother..
        I merely asked how you manage to multitask and abuse people on line.

        Reply
  7. Winston Smith

    I am concerned to see the bashing of the Dread John Hemming has extended to attacks on JFF and the team of MK’s it recruited.

    Firstly advisory organisations advise families to flee abroad as fast as they can before there is a court order, as otherwise their kids will ultimately be Forced Adopted.

    In any case they cannot win a case in the Family Court
    and at best the kids will wind up in Care.

    I can go into at length why the Family Court is so corrupt and developed as it did if you wish.

    Irish back to the Republic, Eastern Europeans back to their countries, and Brits abroad.

    There is a standard draft to send to the British courts saying they are outside their jurisdiction, as frequently LA’s will try to get orders after the family has left the country and try to go out and pursue them there.

    His team of MK’s, with some exceptions, were families who were assured by their legal there case was going well, then lost the case, then they discovered they had done deals without telling them then told them they could not appeal. They did not want it to happen to other families.

    The reason MK’s are recommended is most solicitors will not mount fighting defences or put in clearly worded statements.. The reasons are discussed in detail in the letter columns of the Dread Christopher Booker’s articles.

    The reason why JFF called for families who had had placement orders raised against them to contact them is because placement orders are often not legally correct.

    I was one for JFF for a shot time before being headhunted by another organization.

    I see now MK’s are being encouraged by senior judges because of the cut back in legal aid funds.

    However there has been a rise in MK’s who charge for their services.

    If you go LIP and use an MK you at least have a chance, with clear statements and chronologies, a fighting defence , attending the informal conferences before hearings, and insisting on impartial expert witnesses, but none at all if your solicitor will not mount a fighting defence.

    II could go on.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Sadly that is not what I hear. I hear of McKenzie friends who take money for doing nothing, who don’t return papers etc and who balls up what could have been winnable cases. I am sure there are some very good MKF out there, just as I am sure there are some bad and mediocre lawyers.

      But what is needed is a clear eyed appraisal of what is actually happening, not some blind knee jerk response.

      Hemming and his outfit are dangerous. I am glad to see that one of the erstwhile subjects of his patronage, Sabine McNeill – also one of the most prolifically dangerous self identified MKFs – has now been arrested. Hopefully this will send some kind of warning against the worst excessives of the less trusthworthy elements of this industry.

      Reply
      1. Winston Smith

        I’m sorry Sara, but John Hemming, like many middle class campaigners and runners of advisory organisations, did so after being horrified receiving the blast of the local childrens’ department for unjustified reasons.

        Sue Amplett, Alison Stephens – PAIN – Tim and Julie Haines., now the Conservative MP for Telford and former Wandsworth councilor.

        JFF and everybody else is anything but irresponsible in telling families to flee abroad before there is a Care Order.

        You will not receive justice in the Family Court

        You must be aware are how difficult it is to get Permission to Appeal for the court of appeal and high court and the very narrow grounds allowed for appeal

        JFF warned Sabine McNeil that the Hampstead allegations were a hoax in the strongest of terms.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          And yet Hemming was prepared to be patron of her organisation, even when he must have known all that Sabine was getting up to prior to that. The Hampstead case was not her first rodeo. She and Hemming have had fingers in many pies before that case.

          I agree that the current system doesn’t work. Where you and I part company is that I don’t agree that telling lies about the current system makes it any better. All it does is mean a lot of time and energy is wasted trying to establish the truth.

          Reply
  8. Angelo Granda

    Sarah,although I have never used the facility referred to by the reader above I respectfully suggest it may be a fault in the site software which has also caused our pro lem with the spam e-mails which you must spend much time deleting.
    It may be a technical flaw or a deliberate one introduced by a hacker.
    Either way,I suggest you suspend or eliminate the facility and see what happens.

    Reply
  9. Richard MA

    I’ve been warning people about Tim and Julie Haines for a couple of years now. I could tell you half a dozen stories of them ripping people off, fooling clients with forlorn cases and turning out shoddy work. They even hijacked an FB page dedicated to criticising CAFCASS and booted everyone out and closed it. I booted Haines out of my group once I discovered he was a rogue but every now and then I still hear complaints about him. Steve and Mihaela Wade are another similar pair. Unconscionable prices for shoddy work. I was shown three statements they had written. Two were inadmissable and the third looked like it was scrawled by a teenager. David Bright is another. Now released from prison and trading under a new name instead of The Parent’s Voice.

    None of the above however means that all lay practitioners are rogues or need regulating. I know nothing of the affairs of JFF although I do know the Wades are up to their armpits in FNF. McKenzie friends can be sued like anyone else. The court can ban them as they did with Nigel Baggaly. Regulation isn’t going to solve the problem of rogue traders. You have only to look at the Law Gazette and there are half a dozen scandals each week about solicitors and barristers fleecing estates, beating their wives, importing cocaine and every other sin imagineable.

    Bashing John Hemmings is unjustified. Why one earth should he be held accountable for the actions of the Haines? Calls for MKFs to be regulated never come from parents of their users even if they have been fleeced. They always come from barristers and to a lesser extent solicitors who believe their dark arts cannot be repeated by lesser mortals. I’m truly tired of hearing barristers crying and whining about competition. I’m also sick and tired of coming across lacklustre barristers and solicitors who ruin people’s cases doing their ‘business as usual’ routine. There are many outstanding and kind ones too but they are not the ones doing the whining.

    The people who come to lay practitioners are those who can’t afford a barrister anyway. Or increasingly they are ones who have become disillusioned with barristers and solicitors. People who are sick of throwing money down the toilet and getting nowhere. The lay practitioners I work with achieve far more with much less. They are motivated by a genuine concern for parents and children and none of them are getting rich quick.

    While you raise some valid points about the Haines Sarah you really need to get off your high horse and stop bashing the rest of us. Back in the real world it’s other MKFs that have done their utmost to expose the antics of the Haines, Wades and David Bright. Not barristers. They haven’t lifted a finger. I took over thirty statements relating to David Bright from his victims and attempted to set their cases back on track for free. It took about six months out of my life. What did you do? What are you going to do for Ms Green apart from whining? Send her to me and I’ll get her case back on track for not one single penny.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I dont ‘bash’ decent MKFs. I am not on a ‘high horse’ and I have done plenty. If you can’t see that or don’t value it -that’s up to you. I don’t have the time or patience to educate you about the work I do, but as you are on my site, presumably you can see it with your own eyes, if you can be bothered.

      Such a pity that you waste the opportunity to engage with me with anger and insults. I agree with much of what you say. But now have little appetite to discuss it any further with you.

      Just one final comment – you say “Bashing John Hemmings is unjustified. Why one earth should he be held accountable for the actions of the Haines?”. This is a surprisingly naive comment. He funds them and weaponises them. He is responsible for them as he has appointed them such power and influence in his organisation. He bears ultimate responsibility for the harm they do.

      Reply
      1. Richard MA

        Wow it’s like talking with a dysfunctional child. I can’t believe you were called to the bar. No of course you’re not on a high horse. That’s why you don’t have time to ‘educate’ and ‘engage’ with me. Your petulance is boring.

        Goodbye

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Goodbye Richard. I hope you can take time to reflect on how you chose to communicate. If you did wish for genuine dialogue then of course it is pretty immediately sabotaged by your rude language and approach.

          If however, you have not come seeking engagement – and I suspect you have not, given your support for Hemming – then your rudeness is less mysterious, but equally futile.

          Reply
  10. Angelo Granda

    Those on the Child Protection Resource who want to reform the system ,especially the barristers expert mediators) ,should come to terms and talk with all campaigners, opponents and everyone else with the same aim of reform ,however different they are in views,however professionally qualified they are and from whichever direction they come.
    We are all locked into the current system and most of us want to change it. Most of us agree the system is wayward and unfit for purpose; some of us think it is rotten ; those actually working within the system especially lawyers are bound to become subject to much criticism and insult from ordinary members of the Public. Unfortunately,our esteemed patron is part of the system we all want to change so cannot escape criticism.
    Professionals should learn to shrug it off and to look only at positive parts of contributions. Richard MA has come on to the resource and bashed our leader . Yet he agrees that she makes some valid points and she agrees with much of what he says.
    What a shame ! If you feel the cap fits ,Sarah,wear it ,if not just shrug it off as inevitable and concentrate on the positives.You both want reform. He is a self litigants advocate and you a barrister and you should both listen to each other because you are both on the same side.
    We are all locked into a decayed system and we all want reform. Lawyers will never achieve it just by discussing it together .I feel sure Sarah knows that already. In actual fact ,in my view, instead of bashing each other ,she should maintain a discussion with John Hemming. Why not write him an open letter and another to Ian Josephs.

    Reply
  11. Angelo Granda

    To Richard MA,
    In my opinion you short reply and goodbye shows that you are the only one who is a petulant child. No wonder some judges show disrespect towards advocates for self litigants (MKF’s).
    I can easily imagine you are one of the childish trolls on Twitter. Stop hitting out us on the CPR and recognise we are working for reform. Are you ? Your goodbye suggests not. Why don’t you try following the example of John Hemming and keep your comments polite and effective.Is MA a real sirname or a apen-name?

    Reply
  12. Angelo Granda

    Unfortunately,i am not the moderator or I would delete your second comment. Childish terms like ‘Wow’ belong to the Beano and Dandy. I would also delete my latter two replies.

    Reply

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