The Court of Appeal has told a self-represented litigant that his lack of legal understanding does not entitle him to ‘extra indulgence’.
The finding will comfort solicitors facing a soaring number of self-represented opponents.
Peter Elliott, who claims to be a whistleblower, succeeded earlier this year in convincing a High Court judge that he was at a significant disadvantage because of mental health problems combined with the fact he was acting for himself. His request for a 2010 judgment to be set aside was granted by Mrs Justice Sharp in February.
However in a judgment published last week, Lord Justice Kay, vice-president of the Court of Appeal, said Sharp had gone ‘too far’ in being sensitive to the difficulties faced by a litigant in person.
He 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.’
Elliott, a helicopter pilot, had been subject to a general civil restraint order for two years, taken out by his former employer WA Developments International after a long-running legal battle.
The issue of self-representation has taken on a higher profile with a steep increase in litigants in person expected following next April’s legal aid cuts.
Speaking to the Gazette this week, University College London law professor Richard Moorhead said the judiciary’s overriding obligation had to be to administer justice, not to exclude self-represented people because of procedural mistakes.