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Litigants in Person: CPR changes

Print publication

02/11/2015

Walker Morris has reported previously on recent guidelines issued in response to increasing numbers of individuals representing themselves in court [1]. Notwithstanding that the court has, for some time, actually had sufficiently wide case management powers, pursuant to Civil Procedure Rule (CPR) 3.1(2) (m) [2], to manage cases and adapt court processes as it sees fit to ensure the smooth running of cases involving litigants in person, the CPRs have been amended, as of 1 October 2015, to specifically cater for such proceedings.

Whilst the unnecessary proliferation of rules is generally to be deprecated – particularly in view of the fact that procedural complexity is one of the major hurdles facing those representing themselves – it is to be hoped that the new rule, CPR 3.1A, provides useful clarity for all parties and for the court.

  • There is now a positive obligation on the court, when it is exercising any case management powers, to have regard to the fact that a party is unrepresented;
  • It is now mandatory for the parties and the court to take any relevant multi-track/fast-track standard directions as their starting point when drafting case management directions;
  • The court must adopt a form of procedure at any hearing which is appropriate to furthering the overriding objective; and
  • At any hearing where the court is taking evidence, the court may question witnesses, or may cause such questions to be put to witnesses, as it considers proper.(This latter provision is intended to deal with the problem, noted in the case of Otuo v Brierly [3] earlier this summer, of a lack of proper focus within many-a litigant in person’s witness evidence.)
  • Parties and practitioners should note, however, that the introduction of new CPR 3.1A is not intended, in any way, to limit the existing and enduring wide ambit of CPR 3.1 (2) (m).

Walker Morris will continue to review and report the development of case law and civil procedure relating to proceedings involving litigants in person.

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[1] http://www.walkermorris.co.uk/business-insights/litigants-person-essential-new-guidelines
[2] that is, the court’s ability to take any step or make any order for the purpose of managing the case and furthering the overriding objective
[3] [2015] EWHC 1938 (Ch)

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