piBlawg

the personal injury and clinical negligence blog

A collaboration between Rebmark Legal Solutions and 1 Chancery Lane

BBC Expose of 'Crash for Cash' Ring

For some light relief (this is being posted on a Friday afternoon after all!) any practitioner involved in PI cases where fraud is alleged could be advised as to look no further than the detailed article published on the BBC Wales’ website about a successful prosecution of a so-called ‘crash for cash’ ring, in this case an extended family. This would appear to be something of an extreme case, the publicisation of which will no doubt be pleasing to insurance companies seeking to highlight what they suggest is the prevalence of such behaviour, albeit on a less industrial scale.   The modus operandi of the Yandell family from south Wales was to submit claims for entirely fraudulent road traffic accidents replete with bogus repair invoices, hire car charge invoices and other bogus evidence as well as various friends and relatives roped in as phantom passengers. Police suspected they made in excess of £2 million over the years.   A particularly (though soberly unsurprising for anyone concerned with such claims, such as the author) runs:   “ ‘Originally they'd tried a couple of collisions to get a bit of extra cash,’ said DC Jon Parkinson. ‘They realised there was a lot of money to be made.’   The Yandells also realised that insurance companies would soon become suspicious if the same names kept cropping up on claims.To get around this, they began roping in friends and other family members. The more names and addresses involved, the less risk there was of insurance company fraud investigators smelling a rat.   It worked something like this: 1) The Yandells and their associates would invent car accidents in which one party would pose as the non-fault driver 2) The at-fault vehicle would either have high mileage or be mechanically problematic. No loss as it was worth more as a write-off and money could be made by removing parts, headlamps, gearboxes 3) The non-fault party then submits an insurance claim for damage to their car, personal injury, courtesy car, crash repairs and so on 4) The Yandells would submit fraudulent courtesy car and repair invoices to insurers 5) Other family members and friends or friends-of-friends would then be roped into the deal. They agreed to lie and say they were in the car at the time 6) A flurry of cheques follow ranging from £10,000 to £40,000 per accident - new cars, personal injury payouts, courtesy car charges and bogus repair bills   But the accident had never happened. So, before any inspectors arrived from insurance companies, the Yandells had to make sure the cars looked suitably smashed up.   The gang would damage cars with hammers, or drive cars into one another ... ”   The extensive article includes photographs and excerpts from BBC Wales' Week In Week Out current affairs programme, including footage of cars being deliberately damaged to bolster claims – to repeat, it’s really worth a read/watch!   The good news is that the report states that the Yandells have been stopped. Prosecutions were buoyed by the availability of CCTV footage as well as intelligence gleaned from social media. The BBC suggested that in total over the past five years some 83 people have been found guilty in the criminal courts for this fraud, specifically: 81 on conspiracy to defraud and two for theft. It is said that they received sentences ranging from six years in jail to suspended prison terms. Next week the final five people involved are due to be sentenced.   The article is available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-35357195.  

Scrutiny of Medical Evidence & Physiotherapy Charges in low-value PI cases

I recently acted for an insurer in a routine low value personal injury case (to which QOCS applied) which had an unusual twist.   The claimant claimed damages for neck injuries sustained in a road traffic accident. He signed the Particulars of Claim which were vague as to the description of his injury, but which made reference to an appended medical report. The medical report was of the lamentably short “tick box” variety and concluded that the claimant had sustained a “soft tissue neck injury which resolved in around five months”. At the time of the examination by the GP expert around three months post-accident, the claimant complained of some ongoing symptoms.   Well, the Claimant’s social media persona begged to differ. The Defendant’s online sleuths obtained evidence that the Claimant actually undertook a half marathon a few days post-accident and an ‘Iron Man’ a few weeks after that. This was at a time when the medical report suggested that the Claimant’s symptoms were most acute (“moderately-severe” – whatever that means!).   The Claimant submitted a Notice to Discontinue.   His solicitors came off the record as acting for him.   The Defendant applied to have the Notice of Discontinuance set aside.   On the day of the listed hearing, the Defendant’s solicitors received a remarkably candid witness statement from the Claimant, who had procured the services of a direct access counsel. This expressed a great deal of regret for what had occurred and made a large number of serious allegations against the claimant firm of personal injury solicitors including: that the firm aggressively pursued the Claimant to encourage him to litigate when he was reluctant; indeed, that the firm “reminded” him that he may have sustained an injury despite his being unaware of it at the time and/or drawing any causal link with the index accident; that despite the Claimant telling the firm that his injury resolved in “about one week” she was pressured into attending physiotherapy sessions; the said physiotherapy sessions were arranged by the solicitors without any reference to any medical opinion; and he was persuaded to sign the Particulars referencing the medical report despite knowing the conclusion of the doctor therein to be incorrect. (This does not explain the complaints of ongoing symptoms however!).   The Claimant settled with the Defendant insurer with a Strike Out on the grounds of Abuse of Process by consent ant the payment of costs, however the case throws into an unpleasantly harsh light the tactics which many who may represent insurers and indeed the insurers themselves have long since suspected are employed by some less scrupulous law firms.   The lesson for such firms is of course obvious, but those for legal professionals representing defendant parties can be distilled thus in cases where the medical evidence appears formulaic (i.e. in the majority of routine Fast Track cases, particularly now costs for the provision of such evidence have been limited by the CPR): defendants should be less prepared to accept the conclusions of medical professionals as face value; claimants ought to me more rigorously cross-examined on the duration and significance of their symptoms; charges for physiotherapy charges should be more stringently scrutinised. These frequently are “evidenced” by invoices made out to the solicitors. Without further evidence of under what mechanism the claimant party is expected to meet these, they are arguably unproven losses. This may raise consumer credit points of course and potentially wider issues in cases where it transpires there is a connection between solicitors and physiotherapy providers. In my experience it is not unusual for the claimant to deny receiving such treatment or as many sessions as claimed for; the chronology also should be more carefully looked into. Perhaps Part 35 Questions should ask when was physiotherapy recommended and by whom? If it was the (medically-unqualified (and often formally legally-unqualified) “solicitors”, can the fact that a subsequent medical report makes reference to this in the “treatment received” section, undermine such a report or seriously be said to pertain upon its conclusion?

Guidance as to Litigants-in-Person, a sign of the times?

The Bar Council, Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives has produced some joint guidance for lawyers in how to conduct themselves towards a litigant-in-person. The Guide (available at http://bit.ly/1IkTPig) remind practitioners of their professional obligations and that the growing rise in unrepresented parties should be regarded as a sign of the times, rather than a sign of there simply being more vexatious litigation. It recognised that the increase in litigants-in-person may lead to an increased burden of work upon a represented party, ranging from the practical production of bundles, to the degree of procedural assistance such a party ought to offer.   The Guidance suggests (amongst other key points):   You should take care to communicate clearly and to avoid any technical language or legal jargon, or to explain jargon where it cannot be avoided: a LiP who is already feeling at a disadvantage may be further intimidated and antagonised by the use of such language.   You should take extra care to avoid using inflammatory words or phrases that suggest or cause a dispute where there is none, or inflame a dispute, and avoid expressing any personal opinions on the LiP's behaviour…   If you speak to a LiP outside court it is generally wise to do so in the presence of a colleague, if possible. It would be wise in any event to make a note as soon as practicable of any material explanation or assistance which you have given to a LiP.   If you are negotiating a settlement it would be more appropriate to say ‘are you prepared to agree to…’ rather than to say ‘the courts in this situation would never agree to x, so I suggest that you agree to….’. The latter approach might be seen as unfair to the LiP, even if legally accurate.   Where a LiP is a defendant to proceedings and no other pre-action protocol applies, the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) state that you should refer the LiP to the Pre-Action Conduct Practice Direction and draw their attention to paragraph 4 which concerns the court's power to impose sanctions for failure to comply with the Practice Direction. You can inform the LiP that ignoring the letter before claim may lead to the claimant starting proceedings, and may give rise to a liability for costs.   Where a specialist protocol applies and more detailed pre-action procedures are required, a LiP will ultimately be subject to the same obligations as a represented party. You should consider sending a copy of or a web-link to the relevant protocol to a LiP when first contacting them about a claim.   You should communicate in a manner of which the court would approve, which includes treating LiPs with courtesy and in a way that any ordinary person would regard as fair and reasonable. This does not mean that you have to tolerate unacceptable behaviour from a LiP, nor does it mean that a LiP has a right to expect you to respond immediately to their calls or correspondence.   It will be important to explain to your client why you are giving assistance to the opposing party, if this is not made clear in court by the judge. You should emphasise that you have a professional duty to the court and that in the interests of fairness the court may require you to provide procedural assistance to a LiP.

Have we started yet? Commencement of contested hearing and CFA uplifts

When a trial begins is of obvious import to any litigant where one or more party is funded by a conditional fee agreement which provides for an uplift per CPR 45.16 and 45.17. Mrs Justice Slade in a recent appeal from Master Campbell held that a contested hearing on the issue of liability had yet to commence before a subsequent settlement.   The facts of James v Ireland [2015] EWHC 1259 (QB) are unusual but not exceptional.   On the first day of a three day trial of a personal injuries case, the claimant successfully applied for an adjournment of the issue of quantum, it being intended that the issue of liability would proceed. Unusually however, late evidence disclosed by the defendant that hitherto unidentified independent witness. To allow for a statement to be taken from the same by the claimant, the matter was adjourned to the following day. The judge asked counsel what to read overnight. The next day it was revealed that attempts to contact the elusive independent witness had been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the case was adjourned to the afternoon so that attempts could continue. These attempts were also fruitless, however given the likely importance of the witness the case was stood out. The judge reserved the matter to himself for a hearing at a later date. This hearing never took place as the claim was settled.   Had the liability trial commenced? The master held that it had. Counsel had entered court. Reading had commenced. Submissions had been provided and considered as to the adjournments. Thus, it was held that the claimant was entitled to the 100 percent costs uplift.   The defendant appealed, arguing that the master erred by failing to hold that nothing in the heard proceedings constituted a core event, such as would indicate that the liability trial had begun (Cutler v Stephenson and Manchester City Council [2008] EWHC 3622 (QB); Gandy v King [2010] EWHC 90177 (Costs)). It was further submitted that the judge would have held that the case was part heard had he considered the trial to have begun, rather than ordered it to be relisted reserved to himself. The claimant argued that the trial had begun as the judge had done pre-reading and that the submissions on the quantum aspect of the case would not have required further elucidation to open as to liability.   The Defendant’s submissions found favour with Mrs Justice Slade who held that a final contested hearing of the liability issue was not triggered by the commencement of any hearing of any nature related to the same. The hearing which was commenced was akin to a case management hearing, as the same did not consider any aspect necessary to determine the question of liability. The reading undertaken by the judge was held to have been prudent use of court time rather than a substantive consideration of a core issue. She held further that the transcripts actually supported the contention that the judge was unaware of the scope of the main issues of the case as to liability when the matter was stood out.

Relief from Sanctions / Strike Out - Is it "worth a go"?

Last week the Commercial Court dealt out a salutary warning to Parties whom are seen to opportunistically attempt to take advantages of defaults by their opponents.   Mr Justice Popplewell in the case of Viridor Waste Management Ltd v Veolia ES Ltd (unreported, QBD (Comm) 22 May 2015) awarded a claimant its costs assessed on the indemnity basis in circumstances where it was held that the defendant had taken unreasonable advantage of the claimant’s late service of particulars of claim in the hope of securing an opportunistic strike out. It was held that in the circumstances, relief from sanctions was the obviously appropriate outcome.   The facts however do not appear to be starkly in favour of the eventual outcome before the Court.   Here, the claimant’s Claim Form (claiming some £32 million for unjust enrichment) was served four days late. This was overlooked by the defendant and in without prejudice discussions a twenty-eight day extension for service of particulars of claim was agreed. However, the claimant defaulted on this agreement (the second default in the short history of the case) when these particulars were not only served a day late, but were done so by second class post, which is a method of service unrecognised by the CPR. The Claimant subsequently re-served by hand, email and first class post, albeit five days beyond the agreed deadline.   Rather than consent to the claimant’s application for an extension of time for service, the defendant applied to strike out on the grounds that the delay itself and failure of the method of service were serious breaches of important rules of procedure. It was also argued that to allow an extension would also effectively extend limitation on the facts of this case.   In the author’s opinion, the grounds put forward by the defendant had  some merit and given the potential value of the case, may well be one where a party is urged to “have a go” albeit perhaps opportunistically. The claimant had defaulted previously and the tenor of the so-called ‘Jackson reforms’ is to consider default from procedural canon to be serious.   Popplewell J however disagreed with the Defendant and your author. He held that it was unrealistic to regard any delay as being always “serious and significant”. On the facts of this case, it was held that the default should be “measured” to being just a few hours late, given the fact that the particulars of claim were in the defendant’s hands via second class post the day after that when service was due. A purposive approach was taken to the rule of service, and it was held that the said delay of a few hours would not have had any real impact on the course of litigation, other litigation or other court users were it not for the defendant’s application. Applying the Court of Appeal’s guidance in Mitchell and Denton therefore, it was held that the breach was immaterial and thus relief should be granted.   Unfortunately for it, things did not end there for the beleaguered defendant. The court held because it was obvious that relief from sanctions ought to be granted in this case, the actions of the defendant were an attempt to take unreasonable advantage of the claimant’s default in the hope of obtaining a windfall strike-out. This, and the defendant’s refusal to consent to the claimant’s application, was held to have caused further delay in this litigation as well as a negative impact upon other court users. Thus the claimant was awarded not only its costs, but they were to be assessed on the indemnity basis too.

More Political Uncertainty for PI Litigators

Ian Miller’s recent post looking at of what party manifestos might tell us about the way ahead for personal injury lawyers identified a large number of potentially significant and yet radically differing changes ahead. Which actually lay in store for us was, of course, going to be dependent upon which way we voted – and upon which post-election alliances were formed and the compromises that were going to be required to hold them together.   Surprisingly, only a short time after that post was published, we find ourselves in a position in which a much clearer outcome has emerged from that election than appeared likely at the time of Ian’s post. Whilst the Green Party’s proposal to bring back legal aid never really appeared to have much of a chance of being implemented, it did at times appear that a return to one-party government was not a great deal more likely. Nonetheless, that is where we find ourselves.   As a result, one might expect that we would be able to move on from the election better able to plan for the future with a degree of certainty as to what might lie ahead. Despite the relatively conclusive outcome to the election, whether this is in fact the case for personal injury lawyers is however questionable. The “in-out” referendum promised in the Conservative manifesto makes it (still) very difficult to predict what might lie in store – whatever the result and whatever interpretation one might put on the contents of that manifesto.   Opposing views as to which outcome of the referendum might be preferable are beginning to appear in the media - despite the fact that there appears to be very little (or no) suggestion as to what changes might be wrought by the “new settlement” to which the manifesto refers. Insofar as it might affect the business of personal injury litigation, the possibilities seem both endless and potentially very far-reaching, whether we end up with a novel basis of membership of the EU or indeed no membership at all.   The possibilities for change (whether intended or not) are myriad – whether under a “yes” to a novel settlement or a “no”. One can only wonder what might ultimately be the subject of renegotiation or an “opt out”. What, for instance, would be the position in relation in relation to claims arising from road traffic accidents abroad? Would claims arising from package holidays still fall to be dealt with in the same way? Would potentially diverging consumer standards impact upon product liability claims?   It is equally hard to see how any degree of disengagement from the EU would or could permit a status quo to be maintained, even where this might be perceived as a desirable compromise position in relation to a particular areas of law. Were this approach to be tried, it begs the question of what would happen when and if the remaining states revised the current situation. Would it necessitate renewal of the UK’s agreement to the position? Would it leave the UK outwith that agreement? Or would it leave us in some other position entirely?   Equally, were we to see a particularly emphatic “no” vote, could this be perceived as a mandate to “undo” some of the six-pack regulations or other legislation widely perceived as imposing “red tape” upon public bodies and employers? Given the contents of the recent Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, it may not be a surprise if this were so.   So many questions – so few answers. Deciding how to vote in any such referendum is going to be challenging for anyone. To what degree it will be possible to make an informed decision about the issues potentially affecting personal injury litigation remains to be seen.   It can only be hoped that potentially significant changes receive the publicity and scrutiny that their significance would merit. Given the apparent lack of appreciation of the significance of the changes wrought by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 prior to its coming into force, it does not seem to be inappropriately pessimistic to wonder whether this will in fact be the case.   Time, as ever, will no doubt tell…

Holding out for the Heroism Bill

The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill (dubbed by some the “Sarah Bill”) is being returned to the House of Commons, with amendments, following its final reading in the House of Lords on 6 January 2015. The much-maligned and exceptionally brief Bill seeks to introduce a requirement that courts deciding negligence and/or breach of statutory duty cases and in determining the standard of care give consideration to whether the activity or omission complained of was for the benefit of society, whether the person carrying out the activity demonstrated a “predominantly responsible approach” in protecting a person’s safety or other interests and whether (in emergency situations) the person intervened “heroically”.   Clause 4 in particular makes clear that the Bill is aimed predominantly at personal injury cases, although it will apply to non-personal injury cases. Critics of the Bill have suggested that it is largely being promoted by the Government to further protect employers and to appease the insurance industry. Indeed, the Bill has been criticised on several grounds, mostly as being a mere publicity stunt by the Government but also for its vagueness. The Sarah Bill is designed to afford greater protection to volunteers and employers who might otherwise be deterred from performing worthwhile deeds or organising events due to the risk of finding themselves on the end of a negligence claim. The Bill survived an attempt in December 2014 at the Second Reading to remove most of its (four) clauses. At the Third Reading, clause 3 (the social responsibility clause) was amended such that (in assessing the standard of care) the individual’s approach towards protecting the safety and interest of others must have been “predominantly”, rather “generally”, responsible. Clause 4 was also amended, removing the words “and without regard to the person’s own safety or other interests” to make clear that the clause applies equally to those cases where the person (sorry, hero(ine)) assess  the risks to their own safety or other interests before intervening (as well as those where they did not assess the risks). The amended Bill will be considered by the House of Commons on 2 February 2015. If the Bill is passed, there are potentially difficult questions for the judges on the ground to answer. The Bill is somewhat unhelpfully brief and uses terms which are somewhat “foreign”. The first difficulty is going to be determining when a defendant’s action was “for the benefit of society or any of its members.” The clause has a potentially enormous scope. Employers, particularly in the public sector, are likely going to try to fit themselves under this clause. But even if they do, you may well ask, so what? It is only a factor for the judge to consider and is by no means a defence. There is no indication of what weight, if any, judges will place on this factor. Judges will also have to decide on what is meant under clause 3 by a “predominantly responsible approach” in protecting the safety or other interests of others. Again, the potential scope of the clause is vast. Will it apply, for instance, to all medical professionals? Will it apply to any attempt by an employer to introduce some health and safety measure? And what is the tipping point for an approach to be categorised as “predominantly responsible”? There is potential for a stream of cases on that issue alone, unless of course there is a judicial reluctance to engage with the clause and it goes the way of section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006. It is also questionable how many cases will fall under clause 4 (the heroism clause). But for those that do, what do we mean by acting “heroically”? This is an entirely foreign legal concept and is open to a sliding scale of judicial interpretation.  Are doctors acting “heroically” in emergency situations or will the clause only apply to the volunteer, have-a-go hero(ine) which the Government seems to have intended? The Bill, as is stands, is brief, vague and uses terms to which the legal world is not accustomed. Although cases might throw up interesting questions on how to interpret the Bill, one has to wonder whether it will all be for nought. Chris Grayling MP himself has said, "The bill will not change this overarching legal framework, but it will direct the courts to consider particular factors when considering whether the defendant took reasonable care." If judges do not engage with it or consideration of these particulars factors makes no material difference in practice, will defendants even bother to try to fit their cases under one of the clauses? Much like section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006, it will be judicial appetite that determines how effective the Bill’s clauses become. Given the criticism of the Bill in judicial circles, do not expect that appetite to be very strong.  

Application of Procedural Rules and Litigants-in-Person

There can be little doubt that modern litigation involves the increased presence of people representing themselves in court. Particularly amongst some kindlier judges (in all courts) there could be said frequently to be a culture of benevolence towards such litigants-in-person when it comes to non-compliance with the Civil Procedure Rules and other procedural rules.   This can lead to significant frustration amongst represented parties, particularly in circumstances where a Strike Out or other such punitive sanction is sought, but denied on the grounds that the defaulting party should be afforded another chance (perhaps applying the third limb of the Denton test?). Yet further frustration is likely to be felt should the prospect of recovering any costs from the said defaulting party is considered, notwithstanding those thrown away by any such default, assuming as one may that the reason most litigants-in-person are just so is for reasons of pecuniary necessity.   Lord Justice Briggs in giving the sole judgment of the Court of Appeal (Underhill and Moore-Bick LJJ concurring) in Nata Lee Ltd v Abid & Anor [2014] EWCA Civ 1652, may provide such represented and non-defaulting parties with some hope. This was an appeal concerning the trial of a boundary dispute, at which the Appellant was represented by a company director and the Respondent by leading and junior counsel. The Appellant’s application for to change its expert was unsuccessful on the grounds that it was “too late” and provided insufficient reasons for its request. The Court of Appeal found that this decision was “seriously flawed”, but not before emphasising that  the application of procedural rules of the court were to be applied levelly to represented and unrepresented litigants.   Briggs LJ held:   53.       I make it clear at the outset that, in my view, the fact that a party (whether an individual or a corporate body) is not professionally represented is not of itself a reason for the disapplication of rules, orders and directions, or for the disapplication of that part of the overriding objective which now places great value on the requirement that they be obeyed by litigants. In short, the CPR do not, at least at present, make specific or separate provision for litigants in person. There may be cases in which the fact that a party is a litigant in person has some consequence in the determination of applications for relief from sanctions, but this is likely to operate at the margins.

Prosecution of PI Fraud

Any regular reader of the PIBlawg will be aware that I have an interest in fraudulent personal injury claims, being involved as I am in numerous cases where a vast range of fraud is alleged by Defendant parties (also see http://bit.ly/1vRcuWT; http://bit.ly/1znwXHI; http://bit.ly/1GokHKm).   In recent years there appears to have been a change in culture of insurers, who are far more prepared to fight claims on the basis of that they are fraudulent. There have been many high-profile news articles suggesting that fraudulent road traffic accidents cost each motor insurance policy holder up to £100, but this is falling due to the rise in claims being run to trial alleging foul play: a pour encourager les autres approach?   The courts too appear now more prepared to commit PI fraudsters to prison, but recently the police and CPS stepped in to prosecute a man who deliberately "slipped" on a wet bag in a supermarket. Waheed Iqbal was seen on CCTV feigning a slip of a Lidl store in Bradford which is well worth a watch on the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-30352231.   At trial at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates' Court, he was found guilty of two counts of fraud by false representation. He was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court to a 10-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.   The CCTV shows Mr Iqbal was wheeled out of the Lidl store to an ambulance but it is reported that an insurance fraud investigation team later found he asked the paramedics to stop before they reached hospital, alighting the vehicle unaided and returning straight back to the Lidl store to request the incident was reported.   It seemed that this may not have been Mr Iqbal’s first attempt at a false PI claim. The BBC reported that Police also discovered he staged another "accident" with a punchbag in a gym so he could make a PI claim.   This case must also represent another risk to would-be fraudulent PI litigants: even if for commercial reasons a committal is not pursued by a defendant insurer at the successful conclusion of a trial where fraud is found, the matter may well be taken up by the CPS.

"Professional" McKenzie Friends: LSB reaction to Consumer Panel's Recommendations

Those of us who are professional advocates reacted largely with horror when the Legal Service Consumer Panel called in April of this year for a “culture shift” in favour of recognising the rise in and increasing use of paid McKenzie Friends in our courts by extending regulation to them. Quite why this quango exists in the first place may well be a mystery to some (as it is to the writer) but surely for them to have spent clearly much time and (of course, public) money coming to such a conclusion may well lead to some (yes, including the writer) to question its utility. The recognition of a role for paid McKenzie friends and such a “culture shift” (whatever that could possibly mean) would put such individuals on a par in the eyes of many court users with professional lawyers.   The reality in the eyes of many of those appearing before the civil courts on a daily basis (yes, you have guessed it – including the writer) is that such “professional” McKenzie friends are a complete hindrance to the just and efficient disposal of a case. Judges in certainly the County Court are well used to assisting litigants in person. Usually unreasonably intransigent in negotiation, ignorant of procedure and improper in their conduct, a case where one party is being “represented” by such an individual tend to take at least twice as long as those where the litigant is represented, and at least half as long again as compared to when they act in person.   Professional fairness amongst both branches of the legal profession dictates openness and a certain assistance must be afforded lawyer-less litigants, at least in terms of procedure and as regards the conduct of any negotiation. The presence of a professional McKenzie Friend is unlikely to be of any added benefit to a litigant, even commensurate to the relatively lowly fees they seek.   It is only with a modicum of relief that it has been reported that the Legal Services Board Chairman has not exactly swallowed the Consumer Panel’s recommendation whole. In a letter to the Panel,  Sir Michael Pitt is reported as having supported the suggestion that paid legal advisers should be recognised as a ‘legitimate feature’ of the legal services market and  perhaps bizarrely agreed McKenzie friends may improve access to justice, but  he stated that he was ‘cautious about formally accepting’ all the Panel’s recommendations. He wrote that safeguards are needed to clarify the role and limitations of paid McKenzie Friends, however he did not state that he advocated the regulation of their services. Showing he may not be wholly out of touch he added that the “skeptical – and indeed sometimes hostile” view of many in the legal professions showed the importance of providing clear and targeted information for litigants. However he is reported as having agreed with the Panel that McKenzie friends should form a recognised trade association, with client protection measures such as accreditation and indemnity insurance introduced to manage the risks. Sir Michael is reported as writing quite properly: “We are concerned that [McKenzie friends] may be misleadingly perceived as offering a service underpinned by the same standards and consumer protections that are provided by a regulated professional… That is not to say, however, that we are advocating the regulation of the services provided by McKenzie friends. To do so might drive such provision out of the market.”