As access to legal aid becomes more limited by a government desperate to find ways to cut costs the number of litigants in person (LiP) may well rise.
But anyone deciding to go down this route should be aware that the courts expect the LiP to follow court procedural rules and may not be as forgiving as they used to be when the LiP slips up.
Writing in Help4Lips Deborah Aloba points out some traps that the unprepared LiP may fall into.
The first of these concerns turning up at court. If you fail to attend you must satisfy three requirements of CPR.39.3, if you do not then you run the danger of having judgement go against you.
The missing party needs to show that they:
(a) acted promptly when he found out that the court had exercised its power to strike out or to enter judgment or make an order against him;
(b) had a good reason for not attending the trial; and
(c) has a reasonable prospect of success at the trial.
As Deborah Aloba points out, in the case of Tinkler and another v Elliott  EWCA Civ 1289 the defendant, a LiP, failed to attend and did not act speedily enough afterwards so ended up with a permanent injunction and general restraining order against him.
In Fernandes v Kenny and Others a landlord couldn’t get a judgment for damages in respect of a deposit set aside because he had not attended the hearing.
The message here is ‘attend court when directed to do so and do not delay in making any application or appeal’.
Deborah Aloba also says that, although the Employment Appeal Tribunal has taken a different view of LiPs in the past that may not continue.
Another area where she says more care should be taken is in regard to costs. The LiP can claim costs but there are rules and limits. You can, she says, claim disbursements in full but otherwise only up to two thirds of the amount that a solicitor would have been entitled to.
The LiP also has to prove actual financial loss so a self employed person would probably qualify but a retired civil servant may not.
The full article by Deborah Aloba containing relevant case law can be found here: