Trinity Barrister in Landmark McKenzie Friend Case

Trinity Criminal and Family barrister, Rebecca Suttle, appeared before the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) in the recently reported case of R v Conaghan and Others [2017] EWCA Crim 597.

The decision concerned four renewed applications for leave to appeal against conviction which were heard together because each applicant had been assisted in the preparation of their case by non-legally qualified third parties. Mr Conaghan was the principal applicant and sought leave to appeal his conviction for murder some nine years out of time. Rebecca accepted instructions on a pro bono basis the day before the hearing on behalf of Northumbria University’s Student Law Office.

In the Judgment, Lady Justice Hallett commented that it had become increasingly common for the Court of Appeal to receive applications by unqualified third parties when public funding had been exhausted. As such, the Court took the opportunity to consider the Registrar’s Practice Note: ‘Practice Guidance: Litigants in Person - Assistance by Third Parties (Criminal Appeals)’ and to give guidance on the assistance that unqualified third parties may give to litigants in such cases. In doing so, the Court held that the term ‘McKenzie Friend’ was not appropriate in the Court of Appeal Criminal Division and emphasised the need for applicants, or those assisting them, to comply with the stringent requirements of pursuing matters to appellate level.

The Court also endorsed the observations in R v Gray & Others [2014] EWCA Crim 2372 regarding deterring unmeritorious applications by making loss of time orders. In this case, of all of the applicants serving sentences of imprisonment, Conaghan was the only one not to receive a loss of time order following Rebecca’s submissions.

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