A High Court judge has thrown out elements of a case brought by a litigant in person, telling her the ruling would help to remedy a lack of legal representation.
Mr Justice Walker, sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division, said the claimant should use the strike-out as a form of legal advice to drop elements of long-running litigation.
Beverley Chambers, who appeared in person with her husband permitted to speak, was attempting to renew her application for an extension of time to appeal an order made at the county court in October 2016. She made claims against her sister Marianne Wiles and a solicitor, Crispin Rooney, in relation to the execution of the estate of her mother, who died in December 2004.
Chambers presented a 31-page skeleton to the court ahead of the application hearing. She made 38 claims in total, set out under 12 heads and taking up 120 pages.
The court ordered that the case should proceed under Civil Procedure Rule 7 in October 2016 but that hearing dealt with only six of the 12 heads of claim.
‘There is a real danger that litigants in person may press on with parts of a claim which seem to them to demonstrate how badly the other side has behaved but for which there is no legal basis,’ said the judge. ‘Similarly, there may be parts of the claim for which, despite the strong suspicions or firm belief of the litigant in person, there is plainly no factual basis.’
He added: ‘Litigants who are represented have lawyers who can give them expert advice about the legal and factual merits of the case. Litigants in person often lack such advice. For litigants in person, a potential advantage of a strike-out decision against them is that it may, to an extent, remedy that lack.’
Walker accepted that his decision may bring disappointment for the claimant but it should be taken as a sign she was fighting on too many fronts and should stop wasting so much time and energy on ‘hopeless’ parts of her case.
One element of the claim struck out involved a £500 compensation payment made to Wiles by the solicitor, which Chambers claimed showed a conflict of interest between Rooney's duty as a beneficiary of the estate and his duty to Wiles. The judge said the court had been right to strike this out and the appeal on this issue had no prospect of success.
Several elements of the appeal were dismissed by the judge as ‘hopeless’ as he considered them in turn. Complaints including one of defamation against Rooney were struck out, with Walker limiting matters on which Chambers might have a prospect of success.
‘The course to be taken now by Mrs Chambers is to leave behind the matters which have been disposed of by the judge, and to concentrate on the forthcoming trial [listed for this month].’