The lord chief justice today expressed concerns that litigants in person will increase further when legal aid cuts come into force next year.
Lord Judge (pictured) acknowledged the number of LIPs is already on the rise in civil courts across England and Wales and that this ‘undoubtedly increases the burden’ on judges. Asked at a general press briefing whether litigants in person would rise from April 2013, he said: ‘Yes, of course,’ adding: ‘I am concerned about it and there has already been a significant increase in self-represented litigants.
‘The judge has to help one of the litigants and that presents a great difficulty – the person who is represented is thinking "whose side is this judge on"?
‘Where there are two self-represented litigants life becomes very difficult indeed. Judges don’t know every part of the law and need help - having a list of cases like these undoubtedly slows the process.’
Lord Judge also told the media he was also worried about the lack of women and ethnic minorities in the senior judiciary and spent a lot of time thinking of ways to address the problem. But he stated that quotas were not the solution and instead turned the focus on to the appointment process.
‘You can only appoint people by selecting from those who apply. Eleven per cent of the Queen’s Counsel are women, solicitors who are partners who are women amount to 25% - it would be surprising if we had a bench which is not affected by those statistics when you’re choosing lawyers to become judges.
‘There is this principle that the only basis for appointment to the bench must be on merit. I don’t see how anybody can countenance the possibility of quotas. It would be insulting to women or any minority to say "we’re going to appoint you as part of a quota".’
During the 45-minute press conference, Lord Judge said he would have no objection in principle to courts opening at weekends, although he saw there may be problems with getting defendants, witnesses and the police to appear. He plans to meet new justice secretary Chris Grayling soon and is ‘hopeful’ of an agreement over increased contributions to judges’ pensions.
The lord chief justice also said he was content for cameras to broadcast from court; though if there was a danger to the administration of justice, then ‘we must not let it happen’.