Retiring Judge says rise of litigants in person is ‘shaming’

Family Law|October 16th 2017

Family law judge Mr Justice Bodey described the rise of the unrepresented litigant in person as ‘shaming’ at a ceremony to mark his retirement.

Sir David Roderick Lessiter Bodey turned 70 on Saturday: the mandatory retirement on age for judges in England and Wales. Speaking at a ceremony to mark his departure from the bench, after 18 years in the Family Division of the High Court, the veteran judge described the profound changes he had seen in English legal system since the drastic cuts to legal aid introduced in 2013.

He had watched, he said, as the courts filled with people forced to represent themselves, even though they lacked the skills to do so. Sir David recalled sometimes intervening to help such litigants cross-examine witnesses, and sympathised with the frustration they felt.

“I find it shaming that in this country, with its fine record of justice and fairness, that I should be presiding over such cases.”

Family Division President Sir James Munby attended the ceremony.

The Ministry of Justice is conducting a review into the effects of the legal aid cutbacks, with the results expected next spring. A spokesman insisted:

“We are focussing legal aid resources on those who most need help, which is why we are making wider changes which will make it easier for domestic violence victims to qualify for the financial support they need to pay for legal representation.”

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  1. Andrew says:

    Sir David is right; but the answer is not to stop litigants in person cross-examining as some judges seem to want. Until the court can appoint a lawyer (as in the criminal courts) it is their right at common law to do so.

  2. Dr Grumpy says:

    As someone forced into self representation I have to question if justice was actually served as I was up against a divorce barrister Did I get my case across? I don’t know but what I do know is that the judge in his summing up said I was difficult to work with His decision was set aside as he got the calculation wrong when I appealed. Is this a short sighted attempt at cost cutting? I went through 3 hearings related to the final final settlement How much did that add to the costs? Even now the settlement is heavily in her favour even though the conditions under which the award was made have changed! Perhaps HMG should realise that this experiment has failed and should reverse the order and restore LA on a case by case basis

  3. Dr. Manhattan says:

    Bodey sees the litigant in person as ‘shaming.
    in fact its not so bad when you think that most family law solicitors are so used to seeing parents loose in court that they dont care anymore as long as they are getting the wages in to pay the mortgage.
    Theres a world of difference between the litigant in person and a Solicitor, the litigant in person wants to win badly and will strongly object to or challenge lies from a Social worker etc.
    Parents dont want to loose in court. if they thought they would loose they wouldnt bother going through months of grueling hearings its that simple. So who wants to win and who wants to loose thats the issue Solicitors need to look at.

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