Wednesday, 5 October 2016

NO AMBUSHING OF LITIGANTS IN PERSON

The place The High Court or family court.

The occasion The hearing of a case probably involving the welfare of a child or finances on the break up of a relationship.

You A party to the proceedings who is acting in person, without a lawyer, but possibly with someone you have taken along to help you.

Your state Nervous, anxious, pacing up and down.

The shock Your opponent has an impressive looking lawyer. Half an hour before the hearing, the lawyer approaches you. "Good morning. I won't bite you but I want to tell you that I appear for the other side and I have a bundle of documents for you. Here it is. In the bundle you will find a copy of my client's position statement which will help the judge and you understand exactly what my client is after and why. Also copies of five lengthy law reports of previous cases like ours which I will  ask the judge to follow. Oh and some other papers and correspondence. Have a quick read through. Are you ok? You have gone white in the face."

Not an unusual occurrence. However, this must not happen. But something like it did happen in a High Court child abduction case in which judgment was given last Friday. The judge stated that where one side was a litigant in person  and especially where they were not fluent in English, and the other side had  lawyer at court, the bundle of documents prepared by the other side should normally  be sent to the litigant in person at least three days before the hearing. This should be directed by the court beforehand. How they were sent, usually by email, should also be directed. Where time permitted, the court should consider also directing that the key documents were sent with a translation. If the litigant  in person could be caused genuine unfairness by getting the documents late, an adjournment of the hearing might have to be allowed.