No Leeway for Litigants in Person

In Reynard v Fox HHJ Mathews sitting in the High Court recently held that Litigants in person should not receive special treatment when interpreting procedural rule simply by virtue of them representing themselves.

The Employment Tribunal has an obligation to ensure that parties are on an equal footing, this is part of the Overriding Objective found in Schedule 1 to the Employment Tribunal (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013 which states:

Overriding objective

The overriding objective of these Rules is to enable Employment Tribunals to deal with cases fairly and justly. Dealing with a case fairly and justly includes, so far as practicable—

(a)ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing…

…A Tribunal shall seek to give effect to the overriding objective in interpreting, or exercising any power given to it by, these Rules.

 

However, this requirement is a two-way street and the HHJ Mathews noted:

You cannot successfully claim that an apple is an orange, on the grounds that you do not know the difference because you are a litigant in person. Defendants also have rights, including the right not to be made liable for causes of action which do not lie against them

HHJ Mathews referred to the Supreme Court decision of Barton v Wright Hassall LLP [2018] UKSC 12 where the majority of that Court refused to permit a litigant in person latitude from procedural rules:

“…[u]nless the rules and practice directions are particularly inaccessible or obscure,

as

“it is reasonable to expect a litigant in person to familiarise himself with the rules which apply to any step which he is about to take.”

see para 18

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