Britain’s most senior judge is worried by the number of unrepresented litigants in person crowding courtrooms.
At his annual press conference yesterday (November 30), Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, was asked by a journalist from the Financial Times whether people conducting cases without legal help had become a “real problem” for judges.
His Lordship admitted that they had become “a problem across the entire system.”
The 69 year-old legal veteran explained that unrepresented litigants were not a new phenomenon but said their numbers had grown sharply in recent years.
“The problem is we have now far too many. In the Court of Appeal, the cases take up much longer. We have taken steps to try and deal with them… particularly people who have huge quantities of paper and bring them along and we have a very valuable core of judicial assistants.”
Family courts had been amongst the hardest hit following the withdrawal of legal aid for most family disputes he added.
“If you have a dispute about the children, it is obviously desirable that this is settled as soon as possible.”
But mediation only works if the litigants trust the mediator’s judgement, he continued.
“…if someone has lost, they feel, “Well, why shouldn’t we press on?” or they try and solve the thing themselves and what is beginning to emerge, and we need to study this in much more detail, is: is the withdrawal of legal aid causing a problem in resolving dispute between father and mother about the children.”
“Whether the answer is legal aid or what they do in California, which is to provide a service where there is a lawyer at the court who can speak to both parties, I do not know…”
He called for “detailed examination” of the issues.
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