Judge sets limits on the right of McKenzie friend to speak in court

A McKenzie friend can only address a court in exceptional circumstances the Honourable Mrs Justice Steyn has ruled in a case in which a claimant sat under a bench after arguing with the judge.

Steyn J had been asked to determine various preliminary issues in a High Court case in which Yvonne Ameyaw had taken proceedings against Christina McGoldrick, Louise Coyne and Pricewaterhousecoopers Services.

The judge said the case involved claims for libel, malicious falsehood, breach of confidence and misuse of private information.

She conceded to Ms Ameyaw’s request that the sharing should be ‘live’ rather a virtual as she wished to avoid any disadvantage to a litigant in person.

A Mr Ogilvy was permitted to act as Ms Ameyaw’s McKenzie friend and the judge said she “explained that it would be the claimant's role, not Mr Ogilvy's, to make oral submissions”.

Ms Ameyaw later asked permission for Mr Ogilvy to address the court but the judge refused because this was allowed only in “very exceptional circumstances” which she was not satisfied applied.

“The claimant is a well-educated, intelligent woman who was clearly well able to speak on her own behalf,” the judge said.

“It is readily apparent from the history of litigation between the parties that the claimant has extensive experience of litigation, including experience representing herself (albeit she has also been represented on many occasions).”

Once this refusal was made, Ms Ameyaw, having until this point behaved courteously and respectfully, “her behaviour changed very suddenly and dramatically”, Steyn J said.

“She became extremely angry, shouting very loudly at me, as well as over me when I tried to speak. The claimant also picked up files and threw them forcefully down onto the bench.”

Two people accompanying her tried to calm Ms Adeyaw down but she “then appeared to sit down under the bench so that she was no longer visible to me. At this point the claimant's mother began shouting and became very disruptive.”

Neither Ms Adeyaw, who appeared to have left by ambulance, nor Mr Ogilvy appeared when the court reconvened some hours later. The hearing then had to be adjourned.

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