McKenzie Friends

Posted on 2010-07-05 by Chakers in United Kingdom.

McKenzie friend I hear you ask? Look it up on the Internet and it is an advocate, someone not legally qualified who can assist someone in their legal defence with advice. Today I learned it means someone who is gagged, who knows all the answers and has to sit patiently and listen to a court translator misunderstand, mistranslate, while you silently beg to be allowed to speak.

This was the first and last time I will ever help someone who has not taken my advice and has already made a mess of their application and instead of re-applying asking for a Tribunal for which they have no idea what they are doing or how to proceed. How did they end up in this position? Oh, that was the easy bit, they used a Thai visa agent based in the UK.

It was a simple application that could not be made a mess of but this agent managed it. This is a family of five. Papa had come to England on a work permit a decade ago. Mama followed one year later and both were granted UK right to reside permits. They have a daughter born in the UK and one son and daughter left behind in Thailand. All that was required was a single application for both children to be allowed to enter the UK under the right to live with parents rule. Instead two applications were made one of which was granted and the daughter was subject to interview. It is now a recipe for confusion and that was exactly what happened.

The mother asked me to help and I agreed but I had no idea about tribunals either. I wrote to the court and asked if I can represent the appellant. The court wrote back saying I can. Two weeks before the hearing I submitted our defence material. On the day of arrival I am told I may only act as a McKenzie Friend because only qualified lawyers can act on behalf of the appellant. Nice little monopoly that is! You have to question why? She is not under arrest and daftly I would be allowed to defend her if she was. I was muted, trying to arrange arguments against the Immigration Service without being allowed to speak to the court. I had to explain our arguments in Thai as best I could to the appellant, she had to explain as much as she could remember each time to the court translator who in turn had to tell the Judge what I had said.

It was without doubt the most ridiculous situation I have ever come across that is biased in favour of the Immigration Service to such an extent that you do not have a hope in hell. But we were lucky, we had a tolerant Judge and a sympathetic court translator but I lost count how many times I had to ask the translator to ask the Judge if I could be allowed to speak or to approach the bench. One was to give him the original paperwork that the Immigration Representative insisted she had not been given and she would need time to build a new case. Papers that the Judge already had photocopies of and could only have obtained them from the Immigration Service. Luckily for us the Judge allowed the new evidence submission much to her visible dismay.

We hit the brick wall with summing up. I had to sit and listen to bullshit from Immigration some of it bordering on lies and I couldn't speak out. When it came to our summing up I tried desperately to raise the same points but again I had to do it through the appellant and then through the translator. I tried to do it loud enough for the Judge to hear me and was promptly cautioned.

I will never do this again and I will re-iterate yet again. Do your application yourself. Do it right first time. Stop using these wankers that call themselves bangkok legal or visa international or whatever else they like to use that sounds official and professional and do not put yourself through the stress of a tribunal. It really isn't worth it and you are going to lose.

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