McKenzie friend gives budding advocates a lesson in how not to behave in court

Avatar photo

By Jonathan Ames on

Don’t call the other side a “lying slag” and/or “bitch” and don’t physically “face up” to barristers in court


Nigel Baggaley’s recent career amounts to a superb tutorial in how advocates should not behave in court — and, indeed, generally towards the other side.

A High Court judge has banned the professional McKenzie friend for at least two years from representing anyone — apart from himself — in court owing to Baggaley’s technique of verbally abusing and physically intimidating opponents in court and out.

In a ruling last Friday, President of the Family Division Sir James Munby said Baggaley’s courtroom behaviour amounted to a litany of antics that “undermines the proper and efficient administration of justice and is … behaviour that must be restrained”.

According to the judge, there were many instances of Baggaley’s aggressive behaviour, but highlights included shouting “you fucking lying slag” down the telephone to an opposing woman barrister, as well as calling a chambers’ receptionist a “fucking lying bitch”.

But Baggaley did not contain that approach to telephone conversations. As Sir James pointed out in his ruling, the former nightclub bouncer brought the tricks of his previous trade to court buildings.

The judge asked Baggaley to confirm that on at least one occasion he had “faced up” to an opposing barrister during a hearing at Leicester County Court.

Your basic point … is that, when you got up, you were, to use your own phrase, ‘facing up to him’,” Sir James reminded Baggaley during a summing up of evidence. “In the same sort of way as you would have been if you had been on the door of a club.

Baggaley — who in the past has done time for dishonesty and public order offences — replied that he had faced up “in a controlled manner”.

Sir James acknowledged that Baggaley drew the line at actually clocking opposing lawyers. “… the key thing is you do not touch somebody,” he said before continuing: “…part of the technique, I suspect, is getting into their body space”.

“Yes,” replied Baggaley, confirming that invading body space in a rather imposing and aggressive style was indeed one of his preferred advocacy tactics.

The case will focus attention on the role of McKenzie friends — laypeople that represent others in court, who for whatever reason do not instruct lawyers.

The role was given judicial backing in the 1970 Court of Appeal ruling in McKenzie v McKenzie. And indeed, commentators suggest that the ever-diminishing availability of civil legal aid will trigger a rise in the use of McKenzie friends.

It was pointed out in last week’s High Court case that Baggaley was responsible for two Leicestershire-based organisations, McKenzie Friends 4U and the Diy Law Shop.

Read the decision in full below:

In the matter of NIGEL BAGGALEY (aka Nigel Quinlan)