Litigants in Person Beware

28 March 2017

Taking on any form of litigation is a risky path for anyone to take but often it is more so for those that are not represented. However, the reasons for taking that risk vary from a point of principle to commercial need.

When taking such a risk, those that are not represented must always take a step back and ensure they are pursuing it for the right reasons.  I have often advised my clients that principles can be very expensive.  However, when you are representing yourself, it is very difficult to take that step back and move away from the often empassioned reasons for starting the process in the first place.  Whether you are represented or not, the reasons for using a limited and frankly over stretched public resource, namely the court system, should not be undertaken lightly.  One is often at risk of costs if unsucessful and if there is an error in the litigation by yourself, this can be costly even if you win overall.
Two cases in focus are of importance.  Firstly, in Tinkler v Elliott [2012] EWCA Civ 1289 the Court of Appeal refused to grant relief under CPR rule 3.9 against a litigant in person, reversing the decision of the High Court judge who felt a non-lawyer should be granted additional allowance.  The Court of Appeal considered that the terms of the civil procedure rules are in plain language and understandable by lawyers and non-lawyers a like.  This has been reinforced more recently in the case of Elliott v Stobart Group Limited [2015] EWCA Civ 449, [2015] C.P. Rep. 36 in which the court noted that an inability to pay for legal representation could not be regarded as a good reason for delay. Further, being a litigant in person with no previous experience of legal proceedings was not a good reason for failing to comply with the civil rules or court orders: R. (on the application of Hysaj) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWCA Civ 1633 followed.

Therefore, those that enter litigation should remain wary of doing so and especially when representing themselves. Barristers may be able to assist fill the gap between having a solicitor and being alone at court.  Unlike in previous years, barristers are able to take instructions direct from individuals, groups and companies alike.  This means that you can instruct a barrister to advise as and when required.  This may include advice, drafting documents and letters and representation: but you have the freedom choose what you want your barrister to do according to your wishes and budget.  It ensures you are in complete control of the litigation.  If your case is very complicated, your barrister will advise you to seek additional help from a solicitor.

If you would like help with your litigation, whether that simply would be help at court or fuller advice along the path to trial, you may instruct Marcus Croskell or another member of the commercial and civil litigation team to deal with everything from a dispute over a contract to a boundary dispute regarding your property.  Please contact the clerks by emailing HERE or call 01473 214481 for further information.

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