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Litigants in person should not be treated any differently

A litigant in person has been ordered to pay almost £100,000 in costs after the High Court ruled that unrepresented litigants cannot expect special treatment from the Court.

In the recent case of Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation v Hardy, Mark Hardy, the former Finance Director of the Foundation, brought an unsuccessful claim against its directors accusing them of fraud and false accounting. The Foundation sought to recover its costs estimated at around £163,000 from Mr Hardy.

The Judge said that Mr Hardy’s conduct in the case had been “well out of the norm” in the way he had approached correspondence, the language and tone that he had used, his attempts to include large amounts of irrelevant material in the trial and the way he had made unsupported accusations against the Foundation and its directors.

Mr Hardy had also insisted that the remote trial should be live streamed on YouTube because he claimed that hundreds of people would be interested in watching it.  In the event, only 14 members of the public watched the trial.

The Judge found that Mr Hardy had a rather condescending manner and that he had exhibited “unnecessary” behaviour when dealing with the Foundation and its legal representatives (he had bombarded them with excessive correspondence), which had resulted in more time and resources being spent on the case by the Foundation’s solicitors than normal.

The Judge said that Mr Hardy should not be excused for his behaviour simply because he was a litigant in person and he noted that Mr Hardy had no sense of responsibility to the system and no duty of any kind that would be owed by a lawyer to the Court. The Judge said that although Mr Hardy had reminded him on more than one occasion that he was a litigant in person and not a qualified lawyer that did not however excuse him and that “There are not two sets of rules for litigation in this jurisdiction, one for represented litigants and one for unrepresented”.

The Judge ordered Mr Hardy to pay 60% of the Foundation’s claimed costs up front with the remainder to be assessed by the Court at Detailed Assessment (a process whereby the Court determines what costs a successful party in proceedings should recover from the unsuccessful party).

This case demonstrates that all litigants, whether they are represented or unrepresented, are expected to comply with court rules and to conduct litigation in a reasonable manner and those who do not will be punished by the Court even if they are litigants in person.

If you are involved in proceedings, then it is always wise to seek professional assistance. Blacks Solicitors can assist you with any civil dispute which you may be involved in or in any COVID-19 related issue.  Please email  or call our Dispute Resolution team on 0113 227 9316 today.

 

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Luke Patel

Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution
Commercial Dispute Resolution
LPatel@LawBlacks.com
0113 227 9316
@LukeLawBlacks
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Luke Patel Blacks Solicitors LLP