Consistent with a Judgment earlier in the year, the court has recently confirmed that unrepresented litigants ought not to receive favourable treatment by the court and Judges.
Earlier in the year, the Supreme Court decided that people conducting litigation without representation by a legal professional, ought not to get favourable treatment because they are acting without lawyers. This was the Judgment made in February 2018 in the matter of Barton v Wright Hassall. Mr Barton was suing his former solicitors, Wright Hassall. The Judges confirmed that Wright Hassall were under no duty to notify the unrepresented Claimant of his failure to serve court proceedings in time when he sued them.
The Judges stated that whilst the court could give some flexibility for unrepresented litigants in relation to case management hearings and trials, a lower standard could not be tolerated in relation to compliance with Court Rules and Orders. Rules are rules and unfamiliarity with them, is no excuse for failing to comply with them.
In a Judgment made in November 2018 in the High Court, namely Global Corporate Ltd v Hale, the Appeal Judges concluded that the Judge who dealt with the initial trial had gone too far in trying to treat the parties fairly.
One of the parties was acting as litigant in person at trial and the Appeal Judges found that the Trial Judge had gone too far in his questioning of witnesses. Whilst the Judge is entitled to ask questions of witnesses, it was found that he was asking leading questions and introducing issues not in the papers, to the benefit of the unrepresented party. Whilst Judges are expected to ensure as best as they can that the parties are on an equal footing, they ought not to argue a party’s case for it by asking leading questions.
In the original claim, the trial Judge dismissed the Claimant’s claim against the litigant in person. The Court of Appeal has set aside that order.
The main trend seems to be that the Courts are dealing with litigants in person who do not have legal representation more strictly. However, Judges deal with matters on a case by case basis and each Judge will have a tendency to deal with unrepresented litigants in his / her own way.
Wherever possible and proportionate, people engaging in litigation, or considering it, are best to obtain specialist legal advice from solicitors experienced in conducting litigation.