In November last year, Mark Barton brought an appeal to the Supreme Court, to argue that the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”) were too complex for a litigant in person to navigate; someone unrepresented by a solicitor. This was the first case of its kind; our background on the case can be read here.

The judgment has been released and worth a read if you are inclined to go to court without legal representation.

The key points of the judgment and what it means for a litigant in person.

  • You will be expected to familiarise yourself with the CPR, unless the Rules that you are bringing the case under are particularly inaccessible or obscure. It is crucial to ensure that you have read and fully understood all the rules available to you.
  • The judges rejected a different standard for a litigant in person to be held to when appearing in court and therefore, you are responsible for keeping up to speed with the rules.
  • You may receive leeway from the Court in matters relating to case management, but will not be immune from the consequences of breaching clear rules that are contained in the CPR. In other words, you will be accountable.
  • The judge who gave the leading judgment said, that the opposing side’s solicitor is not under any duty to assist a litigant in person.

Is there any good news for a litigant in person?

Yes, the judges identified that the accessibility of the rules for all users needed to be addressed. The CPR is currently being looked at and amended by the Rules Committee. Both leading and dissenting judges expressed hope that the service provisions in the CPR will be changed to be better understood by litigants in person.

As solicitors, what would we suggest?

You will be in a much stronger position by instructing a solicitor. Unfortunately, this judgment does not work much in the favour of someone who wishes to remain unrepresented in Court, however please see some useful tips to consider before becoming a litigant in person:

  1. Check your business insurance policies, it may include legal costs insurance and your legal costs might be covered by insurers.
  2. Case dependent, if you have suffered a financial loss and the loss meets certain criteria, you should consider whether your case may be funded by a third party. It is worth asking the question.
  3. When a solicitor is instructed by you, their legal fees should be transparent from the beginning. Therefore, consider speaking with a trusted solicitor to establish what options you have before going ahead.

Solicitors have spent their entire careers learning about the forever changing legal system and Civil Procedure Rules. This judgment highlights the complexities and is worth noting if you ever found yourself in a dispute.

You can read about the judgment in further detail here: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2016-0136-judgment.pdf