Clarkson v Gilbert and others: CA 14 Jun 2000

The court considered the restrictions on lay representatives appearing in court as the related to relatives of the party.
Held: The same objections to granting rights of audience did not apply to a husband who merely wished to assist his wife by representing her in court. Where a close relative was seeking to represent a party the question was whether there was good reason on the facts to grant it, such as ill health or lack of means.
Lord Woolf CJ said: ‘The overriding objective is that the courts should do justice. Now that legal aid is not available as readily as it was in the past means that there are going to be situations where litigants are forced to bring proceedings in person when they will need assistance. However, if they are litigants in person they must, in my judgment, establish why they need some other person who is not qualified to appear as an advocate on their behalf. In the ordinary way it will be for them to satisfy the court that that is appropriate. If somebody’s health does not, or may not, enable them to conduct proceedings themselves, and if they lack means, those are the sort of circumstances that can justify a court saying that they should have somebody who can act as an advocate on their behalf.’
He qualified the decision in D v S saying: ‘what I indicated in that case was intended for a situation which was of the sort there described and did not deal with a situation where a husband wished to appear for his wife. It does not matter whether it is said that the position is different in that case or whether it is said that the fact that a husband wishes to appear for somebody who is part of the same family makes it an exceptional situation. It is clear that the objections to someone setting themselves up as an unqualified advocate do not exist in a matter where a husband is merely seeking to assist his wife.’
In this case: ‘I am satisfied that there would be a danger of Professor Clarkson being deprived of her right to have the case conducted before the courts in a way which would enable her claims to be investigated if she did not have the assistance of her husband as an advocate.’
Waller LJ said: ‘I agree with my Lord on the proper principles to be applied to an application for a close relative to represent a litigant in person in order to have that right of audience. I also associate myself with my Lord’s remarks in relation to his judgment in D v S (Rights of Audience) [1997] 1 FLR 724; I was a party to that judgment on that occasion. The position of a close relative seeking to exercise a right of audience is very different from the circumstances with which that case was concerned and it is unfortunate that the judge was possibly misled into applying a wrong test, as he did.’
Clarke LJ said: ‘I agree with both judgments. The judge directed himself that the question which he should answer was whether there were exceptional circumstances which justified granting Mr Keter rights of audience under s 27(2)(c) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. I agree with my Lords that that is not the relevant question in a case of this kind. As I see it, the question is simply whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the court should exercise its discretion under s 27(2)(c). The section does not in any way fetter the exercise of the court’s discretion, although the discretion must be exercised in the light of the objective of Part II of the Act set out in s 17(1) and of the general principle set out in s 17(3). In exercising the discretion in any particular case, I agree that the court must have in mind the general principles referred to by Lord Woolf. There is a spectrum of different circumstances which may arise so that it is difficult to lay down precise guidelines. Cases will vary greatly. For example, in a case where the proposed advocate is holding himself out as providing advocacy services, whether for reward or not, the court will only make an order under s 27(2)(c) in exceptional circumstances: D v S (Rights of Audience) [1997] 1 FLR 724. On the other hand, where the proposed advocate is a member of the litigant’s family, the position is likely to be very different, although, as this case shows, even in such cases the circumstances may vary widely.
There is, in my judgment, no warrant for holding that in such cases an order should only be made in exceptional circumstances. To my mind there is nothing in any of the decisions to which we were referred, including D v S (Rights of Audience) [1997] 1 FLR 724, which requires us so to hold. All will depend upon the circumstances.
It follows that the judge did not ask the correct question and that it is for this court to exercise its own discretion. That discretion should only be exercised for good reason. The question is whether, having regard to the general principles set out by Lord Woolf, there is good reason on the facts of this case to permit Mr Keter to speak on behalf of the claimant at the forthcoming interlocutory applications and at any trial. To put it another way: is it just to permit him to do so?’

Lord Woolf CJ, Aldous and Waller LJJ
[2000] EWCA Civ 3018, [2000] CP Rep 58, [2000] 3 FCR 10, [2000] 2 FLR 839, [2000] Fam Law 808
Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 27(2)(c)
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedIn Re N (A Child) FD 20-Aug-2008
There had been several hearings and the father had been assisted by a McKenzie friend permitted to address the court. The father now objected to the mother’s McKenzie friend being given similar leave.
Held: Whilst Dr Pelling might make a . .

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Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.276309