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Litigant in person beware

View profile for Michelle Hayter
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There has been an escalation in the number of Litigants in Person – or Self Represented Litigants (SRLs) in recent times due to rising costs and cuts in public funding. Any individual is entitled to represent him/herself in court proceedings, but in the recent Court of Appeal case, Tinkler & Anor v Elliott, Lord Justice Kay told a Self Represented Litigant that his lack of legal understanding did not entitle him to extra indulgence.

Mr Peter Elliott had been employed to provide aviation consultancy services to WA Developments International Ltd (WADI) but maintained that he had been forced to resign over a dispute in which he had acted as a whistle blower. After a long legal battle the chairman of WADI Mr Tinkler, applied for a civil restraint order against Mr. Elliott. Mr Elliott subsequently did not attend the trial and was not legally represented. A letter from Mr Elliott’s GP to the court said that Mr Elliott was medically unfit to attend. The court listings officer then e mailed Mr Elliott pointing out that in the absence of a formal application to vacate, the matter remained listed for trial. A general restraint order for two years was made in his absence. Mr Elliott eventually applied to have this order set aside relying on two points – his mental health and his ignorance of the law. Judge Sharp granted his application to set aside the order and Mr Tinkler and WADI appealed the decision. Lord Justice Maurice Kay sitting in the Court of Appeal said ‘it seems to me that on any view, the fact that a litigant in person did not really understand or did not appreciate the procedural courses open to him for months, does not entitle him to extra indulgence.’

Michelle Hayter, Dispute Resolution Partner, says, “This case highlights the importance of legal representation in court proceedings. No allowances will be made by the court to a self represented litigant for not understanding the law.”

For a free initial meeting please call 01202 499255 and Michelle or a member of her team will be happy to discuss any questions you may have.