One of the country's most senior judges has dismissed the idea of creating a separate set of civil procedure rules to cater for the soaring number of litigants in person.

Lord Justice Coulson, deputy head of civil justice, said he would not be in favour of a different blueprint for people representing themselves in court. 

Sir Peter Coulson, Technology and Construction Court

Sir Peter Coulson

Source: Michael Cross

The judge was asked his thoughts on a distinct code at an open meeting of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee on Friday, and acknowledged this was an idea that has been discussed in various quarters.

'One thing that has been floated - but nobody thinks is a good idea - is a different set of rules [for LiPs],' said Coulson LJ. 'This would be a recipe for chaos, particularly if one party is represented and the other is not, and the parties are working under different principles. We have the need for simple and clear rules in mind, and, if we don't always achieve it, then we are sorry.'

The issue was brought into focus last year when the Supreme Court ruled in Barton that a litigant in person should not receive special treatment. 

That established case law, but it did little to address the problem of unrepresented people failing to understand the system in which they increasingly operate.

Coulson LJ added: 'The wording and impetus [of civil procedure rules] has changed over the years. In 2010 we were less mindful of the needs of litigants in person than we are now.

'Quite rightly, because of their increasing involvement in the whole justice system, now everybody is very aware of the need to ensure litigants in person can have access to justice and understand what is happening. The rules have become more user friendly but that is one of the reasons why there are difficulties in the rules. Some have stayed the same, some have been tinkered with and some have had radical amendments.'