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Judicial Working Group publishes recommendations to assist with expected surge in litigants in person

Information for LiPs, judicial training, rule changes and McKenzie Friends considered by group

The Judicial Working Group on Litigants in Person, under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Hickinbottom, has produced its first report.

The report notes that according to the Government's own figures, 623,000 of the one million people who benefit from Legal Aid every year will now be denied access to this aid from the changes which came into force from 1 April 2013. The report therefore presumes a substantial rise in the number of litigants in person.

The Working Group sets out the key issues that litigants in person present for the courts and tribunals, as a basis for recommending measures to help address those issues. Some of the issues, the Group states, cut across jurisdictional boundaries; others are more prevalent in particular jurisdictions: for example, the difficulties posed by the highly emotive nature of many cases in the family courts. The report contains recommendations that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) / HMCTS should devote the necessary work and resources to: 

The report also contains recommendations that: 

Recognising that one of the fundamental challenges for judges, particularly in the civil courts, is how to give legitimate assistance to litigants in person while remaining fair to represented parties, the report considers the procedural rules. It contains recommendations that the Judicial Office should undertake, urgently, further work to assess the merits of three proposals: 

In light of the increased significance of the right of litigants in person to call on lay persons for support after 1 April 2013, another part of the report briefly considers the role of the McKenzie Friend and others who litigants in person may ask to assist them. This part of the report contains recommendations that: 

The final part of the report briefly considers the impact of vexatious litigants. This part of the report contains a recommendation that judges should be strongly encouraged, through appropriate judicial leadership channels, to deal proactively and robustly with vexatious litigants, in particular by declaring appropriate claims and applications "totally without merit" and through the use of orders restraining individuals from issuing and pursuing claims.

The report can be read in full here.