Hughes promises action on litigants in person

Topics: Legal aid and access to justice,Government & politics,European Court of Human Rights,Human rights

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Justice minister Simon Hughes has said the government will make an announcement within weeks on tackling the issues raised by the growing number of litigants in person.

Hughes told the Liberal Democrats party conference in Glasgow yesterday that he had persuaded colleagues at the Ministry of Justice to find a solution to the increasing number of unrepresented people in court.


The announcement will affect all civil courts and is likely to come before Christmas. Hughes also indicated that the application process for exceptional funding - designed as a safety net for 'deserving' cases that are outside the scope of legal aid - would be made ‘much easier’ before the 2015 general election.

But the LibDems echoed the other two main parties in saying there can be no extra funds to restore legal aid provision.

‘I am hoping you will hear encouraging announcements in the very near future to address the question of how to support litigants in person and support people without needing to give them lawyers,’ Hughes said.

‘I am conscious how difficult it is. My wish would be, irrespective [of funding], is that everybody before they come to court has the opportunity to talk through with people exactly what the issues are.’

He added that the problem of litigants in person is ‘not just a family issue’ but has increased across civil cases.

Hughes used his speech to conference in Glasgow to set a dividing line between the Liberal Democrats and their coalition partners on the issue of human rights legislation.

The Conservatives last week pledged to create a new bill of rights to replace the Human Rights Act, and appeared to suggest a changing relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Hughes told delegates the Liberal Democrats had blocked the Tories’ attempts to scrap the 1998 act during their time in government and this stance would remain in 2015.

‘I make this commitment to you: we will always be the party of reform, including in Europe,’ said Hughes. ‘But, whatever the outcome of the next election, if Liberal Democrats are in government: we will always stand up for human rights. 

‘We will never agree to leave the UK without a Human Rights Act. And we will never undermine the European Convention on Human Rights.’

Readers' comments (60)

  • What a mystery? I can't wait for the proposals!

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  • Either, or both of:-

    a) a website called "how to go to court"; or
    b) a leaflet called "you and the court".

    The content of which will be:-

    'If you have to go to court, don't worry. It's really easy and you don't need to be concerned. If the other side has a legal representative, its their responsibility to look after you as well, free of charge. The end."

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  • There is a 170-page Handbook for Litigants in Person on the justice website. It's actually rather good, but LIPs will either not read it or not understand it properly.

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  • You can't help LIP's if the system is not geared up for the general public. The system was created by and for lawyers and I cannot see how you can overturn 100 years + of law and procedure in the space of a few years. The Gov't will not put any meaningful money into this and will rely on people not going to court to enforce their rights. Family law cases are down 15% this year so far ( I read), so the evidence may already be there, that people will simply give up or resort to other means.

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  • is there really any professional service that is or partly state funded, that is not going this way ? It's all becoming an illusion of providing a service for the public, through which you can put your hand, like scotch mist. At a time when our country is overflowing with people, supposedly increasing the public purse through increased tax revenue, it is incredible...or perhaps the increased revenue is itself scotch mist.

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  • "Justice minister Simon Hughes has said the government will make an announcement on tackling the problem of litigants in person within weeks."

    The problem, presumably, is that there are simply not enough of them, and we really must do more to up the numbers. That is what this wrecking-ball government intends, isn't it?

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  • Easier said than done. How will he carry out this promise? You need legal rep in majority of cases. Even lawyers get reps for their own legal issues. Litigants in persons will always be at a disadvantage as lay people without legal expertise or knowledge of court procedures Some do win but the stress and toll on their health is often high price to pay for a successful case.

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  • No Dominic, they will do it with an app!

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  • It'll be "We'll get lots of volunteers to tell you to settle the matter yourself, or charge you more money for a rubbish mediation service"

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  • As always he is ahead of the game He will propose a call centre to talk through the problems you have. press 1 for divorce press 2 for boundary disputes your call is important to us please hold the line all our advisers are engaged at the moment .......

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