The Real Cost Of Unqualified Legal Advice
MAKE SURE YOUR LEGAL TEAM HAVE THE RIGHT QUALIFICATIONS
Disaster has struck: you have just been convicted of a crime you didn’t commit!
According to the lawyers at your trial, there is no chance of an appeal. You don’t have the money available for more legal advice so you seek a cheaper alternative. Perhaps that friend from university who studied law can help? Remember the website you saw that said that they are “nowhere near as expensive as a solicitor or barrister, but just as effective”?
Be very cautious about considering hiring someone legally unqualified to conduct your case. As Paul Wright recently found out, there can be very serious consequences.
Consequences of Hiring Someone Unqualified
In 2004, Mr Wright was severely injured when three plastic bags were left inside him during an operation. He hired a “McKenzie Friend”, George Rusz, to support him during his claim. He ended up receiving only £20,000 in damages from the NHS.
But here is the really bad part – he had to pay £75,000 in costs to the NHS because of the incompetence Mr Rusz displayed during the case, meaning despite winning he had to pay out £55,000.
Fortunately for Mr Wright, he recovered those costs and the damages he should have got after he sued Mr Rusz for giving negligent advice. He was awarded the far more significant amount of £336,759 in total. This finally came fifteen years after his injuries.
If Mr Rusz is unable to pay this amount then it could be years before Mr Wright receives the money, if at all!
The Implications Of Hiring Someone Unqualified
If you were to use a McKenzie Friend, or any other unqualified person, in conducting a criminal appeal, the consequences can be worse than just a financial loss. The Court of Appeal has the power to order, in appeals without merit, that some time already served should not count towards your sentence. You may also face a substantial claim for prosecution costs.
This being said, when they stick to the role they are supposed to carry out (giving advice in court, taking notes…) McKenzie Friends can be legitimate and useful.
Before instructing a person to assist with your case ensure that they are properly regulated and insured – if in doubt, check it out.