‘Litigant in person’ back as judges U-turn on terminology

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Unrepresented litigants should be referred to as ‘litigants in person’ (LiPs) rather than ‘self-represented litigants’ in all criminal, family and civil courts, the master of the rolls has directed in practice guidance.

Lord Dyson’s decision changes a recommendation by the Civil Justice Council last November suggesting that individuals who conduct legal proceedings on their own behalf should be referred to as self-represented litigants (SRL).

Dyson (pictured) said that the term SRL had gained some currency, but LiP continued to be used. He said: ‘The use of two terms to refer to the same thing is less than ideal. It is confusing both for individual litigants and the courts.’

The Judges’ Council, including the lord chief justice and president of the family division, authorised Dyson to issue guidance to ‘promote clarity, certainty and simplicity’ on the term to be used in future.

Dyson said: ‘I have considered all the circumstances, including the fact that the term LiP is used in statute (for example, The Litigants in Person (Costs and Expenses) Act 1975); is and will continue to be used by government; is commonly understood and well-known both by the legal profession and individuals generally.’

In contrast, Dyson said the term SRL is ‘unclear in its scope’, as it can variously be understood to suggest that individuals are conducting the entirety of legal proceedings on their own behalf, that they are only conducting court advocacy on their own behalf or, that they have themselves obtained the representation.

He said: ‘In the light of these factors I have therefore determined, with the unanimous agreement of the Judges’ Council, that the term SRL should not be adopted or used in future.

‘The term "litigant in person" should continue to be the sole term used to describe individuals who exercise their right to conduct legal proceedings on their own behalf,’ he said.

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