A recent High Court case highlighted the importance of a party’s court conduct during court proceedings, even in cases where a party does not have legal representation (known as a litigant in person).
The case of Thompson v Starr and Others involved members of the British Kendo Association (BKA). The Claimant was an events officer for the BKA and it was discovered that he owed a substantial sum of money to a widely respected Kendo teacher and that he had also failed to bank money that had been collected during a training day.
Following discussions with the Claimant, the BKA decided to suspend his role as events officer and to also de-select him from the British Kendo team. The Claimant sought an injunction through the civil courts to prevent this action. The Claimant failed to file the necessary documentation and made a number of applications which were denied. The Claimant even went as far as applying to commit the Defendant for contempt of court which was unsuccessful since there was no order to enforce.
The Claimant appealed to the BKA under their Constitution which failed and they also recommended that the Claimant be removed as events officer. Following the appeal under the Constitution of the BKA a date was set for the legal proceedings.
The Claimant then failed again to file the necessary documentation and also failed to attend the Case Management Conference claiming that he was unable to attend due to illness. However, it emerged later that the Claimant had in fact been taking part in a national Kendo competition at the time of the Case Management Conference.
The Claimant had also claimed that he had instructed solicitors to act on his behalf but according to the Court record no one had notified the Court of this.
The Judge decided that the Claimant’s claim was to be struck out and costs were awarded to the Defendants in respect of two previous hearings.
The Judge’s reasons for his decision were based primarily on the poor conduct of the Claimant throughout the case. The Judge did accept that as the Claimant was a litigant in person, he could not be expected to know all of the Court processes and procedures but regardless of that, the litigation he had conducted was done so in an unacceptable manner. It was also clear that the Claimant had provided misleading explanations to the Court as to his reasons for non-attendance. The Judge also considered the decision of the BKA’s appeals committee in that they considered the Claimant’s claim to have very little prospect of success at trial.
This case therefore highlights the negative view that a Judge can take of a party's court conduct, even where that party is not represented by solicitors.
Lisa Wainwright is an Associate Solicitor and Head of the Dispute Resolution Department at BHW Solicitors in Leicester. Lisa can be contacted on 0116 281 6223 or by email at email@example.com.