This was a case heard by the President to decide whether an order that a Mr Baggaley should be barred from acting as a McKenzie Friend should come to an end or be extended. He concluded, having heard the evidence, that it should be extended indefinitely and Mr Baggaley can thus not act as a McKenzie Friend for anyone else. There had also been a civil restraint order, preventing Mr Baggaley from litigating on his own behalf but that was brought to an end.
One of the difficulties that I never anticipated when I started to write this legal blog was that it can be uncomfortable writing about cases that have a bad outcome, or judicial criticism for people that I have some personal knowledge of. The same thing happened the last time that the Court ruled that someone couldn’t be a McKenzie Friend, since I knew them (and liked them a lot, and still do). I do have to call those cases straight down the line and tell you how I see them. But it does make me uncomfortable.
So, full disclosure, I have had some correspondence with Mr Baggaley, and in all of my dealings with him, I found him very fair, very reasonable and committed to helping people who had found themselves on the wrong side of the family Courts. He has never behaved in any way towards me the way that the Court describe him doing in this case. I’m very sorry that this has happened to him.
Like the previous McKenzie Friend who found herself in difficulties (before the last President) , Mr B was someone who had had their own experience with family justice and had taken that experience and decided to help others. That can’t be an easy thing to do, and there are going to be times when emotions run high in the family Courts. I’m sure both have helped people, and have wanted to do nothing other than help people.
A complaint that parents sometimes make about lawyers is that they don’t care enough – that they don’t show their emotion, that they can appear dispassionate. Sometimes though, you can care too much, and show your emotions too much.
What the Court describe here, if it happened (and the President heard the evidence, so is better placed than me to decide on it) shows that emotions got the better of Mr B in that particular case, and I can see why the Court decided the case the way it did. I also feel a lot of sympathy for everyone that got on the wrong side of those heated emotions, because it must have been an awful experience.
As the President says
The court corridor is not the entrance to a nightclub, and those going about their lawful business in a court building do not expect to be treated as if by a ‘bouncer’. An exasperated and out-of-character outburst, especially if apology is promptly offered, is one thing. Mr Baggaley’s behaviour to the Bench at Leicester Family Proceedings Court, however, was quite unacceptable. His subsequent behaviour in the corridor was disgraceful. His treatment of Mr O’Grady at Leicester County Court, if less outrageous, was unacceptable. No-one in Miss Sharratt’s position should have to endure being called a “fucking lying slag.” No doubt barrister’s clerks have to put up with many difficult and on occasions unpleasant telephone calls, but there was no excuse for what Mr Baggaley said to Mr Baldwin.
There may be lawyers who are happy about these sorts of cases, as they don’t like the idea of McKenzie Friends. That’s their right. I happen to have had a lot of discussions with McKenzie Friends since I started this blog, and I’ve found all of them to be intelligent and articulate and passionate people. They often disagree with me, but I happen to think that’s healthy. I’m sure that just as there are good and bet vets, plumbers, nightclub bouncers, social workers and lawyers, there are good and bad McKenzie Friends, and also that there are good vets, plumbers, nightclub bouncers, social workers, lawyers and McKenzie Friends who happen to have a bad day or bad week.
What happened here is, in my view, unacceptable, but I take no pleasure in it, and I’m sad that it came to this.
You may want to read it for yourself – you may have a different view to me, and that’s perfectly fine.
Re Baggaley 2015