Litigant in person

A litigant in person is an individual, company or organisation that is not represented in court by a solicitor or barrister, but nevertheless has rights of audience (this is, the right to address the court in person). Instructing a barrister and not a solicitor, for example through the Public Access Scheme, however, does not prevent the party on whose behalf the barrister had been instructed from being a litigant in person.[1]

With the appropriate guidance it is possible for litigants in person to have access to the legal system and achieve victory against even the most well represented opponents.

It is possible nevertheless for litigants in the UK to obtain free legal advice and in some cases representation from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

Criminal defendant

A special category of litigant in person arises when a defendant in a criminal case dismisses their defence counsel and chooses to defend the case themselves. This is almost invariably an inadvisable course of action, since the law and procedure can be complex and the penalties if convicted can be severe. Furthermore, in some jurisdictions the litigant in person is restricted from cross-examining the alleged victim in rape and other serious sexual offences. The underlying policy is that an alleged victim should not have to answer directly to an alleged rapist. The right of the individual to defend themselves is in conflict with the need to protect the alleged victim from any further humiliation. In the UK this conflict is resolved by the court appointing a special counsel at public expense to conduct cross-examination.

High-profile cases in Scotland where the accused conducted his own defence and lost were Peter Manuel (who was hanged) and Tommy Sheridan.

Appellant in person

An appellant in person is someone who by their own choice, or because their former counsel is criticised and has withdrawn, is conducting their own appeal at a Crown Court or at the Court of Appeal Criminal Division. The number of appellants who choose to do this are exceptionally small, mainly due to the inherent risks involved, appellants who serve a custodial sentence can have part of that sentence ordered to be served again if the court is of the view that the application is without merit. They must also understand highly complex court procedures, prepare detailed legal paperwork and orally argue a full legal appeal case in front of three High Court judges and a full court.

See also


  1. Agassi v Robinson (Inspector of Taxes)(No.2)Court of Appeal (Civil Division)


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