Litigants in person cannot expect special treatment

In April 2021 the matter of Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation v Hardy saw the defendant who litigated in person ordered to pay the other side nearly £100,000 in costs.

A litigant in person is somebody who goes to court without legal representation, choosing to represent themselves rather than instructing a barrister or solicitor.

This defendant, Mark Hardy, faced a claim from the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation, a company registered as a charity - where he had been finance director and had made allegations including fraud and false accounting. The court ruled that Hardy's request for copies or inspection of documents under section 116 of the Companies Act 2006 was invalid, with no proper purpose. The claimant sought to recover its costs in the action, estimated at around £163,000 on the indemnity basis.

The judge in this case decided the defendant had acted unreasonably. Examples of his conduct included providing the claimant with a large amount of irrelevant information and sending a large amount of unnecessary correspondence to the claimant which increased their costs.

When making the determination for costs, the judge considered the defendant's argument that he should not be found liable due to the fact he was a litigant in person. After considering this premise, the judge stated that there are not two sets of rules for litigation - those being one for represented litigants and one for unrepresented.

Hardy's conduct in this matter was deemed "well out of the norm", resulting in increased time and resources being spent on the matter. The judgement should therefore act as a reminder for all litigants in person that the same procedural rules apply to them, as to represented parties.

This ruling highlights the fact that even if a party is unrepresented, it is under the same procedural obligations as those who are represented legally. If you choose to represent yourself, you must ensure you act reasonably and in a way that complies with the procedural requirements.

If you are unsure about your obligations within a dispute currently being litigated, or likely to end up before a court and would like to discuss your circumstances, our Litigation & Dispute Resolution team would be happy to chat with you - please call 01603 723708 or 01603 723783.

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