Statistics published in the Law Society Gazette show that litigants in person are on the increase, especially in family and children proceedings.
It is particularly the case in family proceedings, which have been decimated by legal aid cuts forcing those who cannot afford solicitors, to deal with claims themselves.
The statistics revealed that the number of unrepresented people at court in children proceedings was 21,574 for the period April 2013 to September 2013. It is expected that the figures will be even more from September 2013 onwards as the legal aid cuts bite deeper.
There are great concerns, including those by Resolution that unrepresented parties are struggling to deal with what can be complex and emotional disputes in the family courts. Not only is it the individuals and families involved in the proceedings that are suffering. Judges are finding themselves having to help litigants in person by spending greater time explaining the procedures, decisions and implications.
Judges should not and must not be required to provide litigants advice. That is not in their role.
The government is trying to encourage parties to family litigation to engage in mediation rather than going through the courts. The use of mediation in commercial disputes has been much more popular over the years. The small claims mediation service is free to use and should be considered by anyone using the small claims court.