Litigants in person are losing winnable cases, a senior judge has declared.
Lord Dyson is Master of the Rolls, the third most senior judge in England and Wales. after Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, and the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd).
Speaking to the Justice Select Committee about the impact of last year’s legal aid cuts, Lord Dyson said unrepresented litigants in person sometimes ‘dry up’ and lose cases that might have been won.
Asked by an MP if he thought miscarriages of justice had occurred, the veteran judge declared:
“I’m sure there will be cases where a party who was unrepresented has lost a case because he or she doesn’t have representation.”
It would be “extraordinary” if there had been cases which had gone badly because the litigant had no legal representation, he added. Such developments were “inevitable”, his Lordship declared.
His claim was echoed by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, who claimed unrepresented litigants had certainly lost cases they might have won.
“I’m quite sure there are cases where even the most experienced judge does not spot something which would have been spotted by a legally represented claimant – and that can mean the difference between victory and defeat.”
Both called for the provision of limited legal aid funding at an early stage in cases featuring litigants in person, to allow them to consult and assess whether they had any realistic chance of success in the courtroom.
The Justice Select Committee is currently assessing the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, otherwise known as LASPO. This drastically reduced the number and types of family and other cases eligible for legal aid funding when it came into force last spring.