Representing yourself in court – deciding to take court action and represent yourself
You have the right to represent yourself in court without a solicitor or any other legal professional. There are of necessity a few exceptions to this – for example an accused rapist would not be able to interrogate the victim in the witness box. A person who chooses to represent themselves in court is known as a ‘litigant in person’. In the first of a series of articles Everyday Legal looks at deciding to take court action and represent yourself in more detail…
People who choose to represent themselves in court often do so due to one / both of the following reasons:
- They think it’s better to talk to the judge, jury or magistrates themselves
- They can’t afford to pay the legal fees to appoint a legal professional to represent them in court
There are drawbacks to representing yourself in court
- Your knowledge of the law is likely to be limited so if the other side is represented by a solicitor this could put you at a disadvantage
- There are sometimes strict procedural deadlines which must be met in order to bring or defend certain claims and if you miss these you could face cost penalties or even have your case dismissed
A McKenzie Friend
You’re allowed to have a lay (ie not a lawyer) representative who can help and support you in court – this person is sometimes known as a McKenzie friend.
A McKenzie friend can:
- Give you moral support
- Take notes
- Help you with case papers
- Advise you on court procedure
A McKenzie friend cannot (unless the court agrees):
- Address the court
- Examine witnesses
If you’re attending court without legal representation the Personal Support Unit (PSU) may be able to give you some practical, non-legal help.
The Alternatives to Court Action
It is possible to deal with many legal problems without going to court although sometimes the court is your best or only option. Here are some options to taking court action:
You may be able to solve your problem by talking directly to the individual or organisation that seems to have caused the problem. If you need help with this contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Many large companies and other organisations have an established process for handling complaints. The details of this are usually available on the organisation’s website. Whilst you can phone in with your complaint it’s usually better to put it in writing so you have a documented record of it. Keep copies of all documentation as your complaint is dealt with and if you do have any conversations by phone keep a note of the date of your call, the person you spoke to and the substance of your conversation.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Everyday Legal has a guide devoted to this – please click here to access that article.
If you use ADR to take things further you may choose to complain to an Ombudsman. Everyday Legal has a guide all about Ombudsmen – click here to access that article.
Deciding to do nothing
This is not the same as just doing nothing. You’re deciding to do nothing and that means considering the situation you’re in and weighing up all the options. If doing nothing gives the best outcome for you than that might be the best course of action. However it’s wise to get advice before concluding that you’ll do nothing.
Deciding to take court action
You must have a legal basis for taking action as without this you don’t have a case. Get advice on the legal basis you think you have if you’re unsure.
Content correct at time of publication