News

Litigant in person throws White Book at barrister

By on
45

Lawyer lent self-representing claimant practitioners’ text at judge’s request

A litigant in person (LiP) had to be removed from a court after throwing a heavy legal text at a barrister.

The unnamed barrister was representing one of two defendants in a civil case at the Central London County Court when, at the judge’s request, he lent the LiP a copy of his White Book, a hefty practitioners’ text containing the rules relating to civil procedure.

According to a court order, a copy of which was posted to Twitter by Colm Nugent, a barrister at London’s Hardwicke chambers, the self-representing claimant was late for the hearing and, once present, made “a number of volatile interruptions”.

Things finally came to a head when the woman, who isn’t named, lobbed the White Book at her opponent, resulting in the “understandably exasperated judge” ordering her removal from the court. It’s not clear whether the barrister was injured as a result of the incident.

Responding to Nugent’s post, personal injury lawyer Gary Whitaker wrote: “Surprised no arrest for assault”, while Gary Scott, a property litigation specialist, focused on the positives: “On the bright side, at least Counsel got their White Book back.” Meanwhile, barrister Gemma Roberts joked: “How did a potential weapon get through the Court Security? White Books should be confiscated hence forth…”

The judge went on to strike out the woman’s claim against the first defendant on the basis that it is “totally without merit”, as well as pay the first defendant’s costs of over £8,200.

The 2019 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

45 Comments

Anonymous

Would have been arrested and named if she was a man.

(39)(19)

Anonymous

Female litigants in person are treated leniently.

Female perpetrators of crime are treated leniently (especially if they are middle class) by police who enforce crime selectively and view themselves as “chivalrous and gallant” saviours.

(34)(14)

Anonymous

Where there is a female complainant in dV cases, in my experience there is a presumption that she is telling the truth.

This may be justified on the basis that statistically females are far less likely to find themselves accused of a crime and are therefore statistically more likely to be honest.

Many a Mags decision is usually based on the reasoning “we find the complainant credible, therefore we find the defendant guilty”.

(14)(3)

Anonymous

Yes, these are some of the reasons why so many mags convictions are unsafe.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

In my experience (civil) male and female litigants in person are treated sympathetically but generally lose.

(5)(4)

Anonymous

In my experience male and female LIPs are treated equally unfairly by the courts, with judges usually taking the side of the represented party and doing their damndest to ensure the LIP loses.

(10)(13)

Anonymous

Barton. 👍

Anonymous

Yep

A barrister

Battery, not assault (although the article doesn’t say whether the book it or not).

(3)(6)

Anonymous

The book it what?

(5)(1)

Anonymous

It could be an assault if it didn’t make contact.

(17)(0)

Anonymous

How the hell were the costs £8,200 for a case which was totally without merit?

(10)(7)

Anonymous

The costs were substantially accounted for by the cost of replacing the White Book – if you throw that hefty book around, the spine will break.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Its less than a grand to buy both volumes brand new.

The costs involved here should be in the (low) hundreds, not the thousands.

(9)(14)

Anonymous

Do you mean, how were the costs so low?

(4)(3)

Anonymous

No, because they were high, not low.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Makes a change then. Usually LIPs get away with minimal or no costs against.

(0)(2)

Anonymous

Which is usually as it should be.

dan

The idea that losing LiP’s can get away with no or minimal costs against is fanciful.

As a winning LiP Claimant against LiP Defendants with a counterclaim, costs orders can be hefty. Especially when counsel has been instructed on a direct access basis for PTR ( at which Ds had legal representation ) and a 3-day multi-track trial (by which time Ds had apparently disinstructed their legal team), with expert witness evidence on top.

Anonymous

LiPs should generally have to pay little or minimal costs.

Anonymous

The Defendant has kept costs down by applying to strike out rather than letting the matter trundle on to trial. They’re entitled to instruct solicitors and counsel to represent them. £8,000 seems pretty reasonable to me for an application to strike out, especially in London.

(11)(8)

Anonymous

Strike outs are supposed to be cheap. An application to strike out doesn’t cost £8,200, in London or anywhere else. If the Defendant chooses to rack up unecessary costs on solicitors and barristers against a LIP it must pay for them itself and not go cap in hand to the other side looking for money.

The costs awarded here are at least 20x what they should have been, even in London.

(4)(4)

Anonymous

You’re right, strike outs do not cost £8,2000. The last one I had had costs of over £1m.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

I know I’m right – strike outs don’t cost as much £8,200.

There have never been any cases which are totally without merit and which cost over £1m to strike out.

Anonymous

I agree £8k is a bit high for a simple strike out, £6k would be a reasonable baseline.

Anonymous

£6k is more reasonable than over £1m for a strike out application, but still too high.

Where the case is totally without merit there is no reason for thd costs to exceed £1,000 and they should usually be in the hundreds.

Anonymous

£1000 should be counsel’s fee alone. What planet are you on thinking that you cover the whole process?

Anonymous

You also have to factor in possible indemnity costs based on the party’s conduct…

Anonymous

If you think counsel’s fee for a strike out hearing for a case which is totally without merit is £1,000 then you’re on a different galaxy never mind a different planet! Should be change from £100 for counsel.

Anonymous

I don’t think the £8,200 in this case was on an indemnity basis.

Unlikely indemnity costs would be relevant in a case which is totally without merit.

Steve

What a ridiculous assertion.

Last year I had to deal with a PofC from a LiP consisting of some 200 paragraphs of close-set text in nearly 60 pages of A4, citing 6 defendants. It contained a new claim for payment of two existing judgment debts against one of the defendants, contained allegations of fraud, dishonesty, and conspiracy against all six defendants, not one allegation was made that was not made at least five more times in other parts of the pleading, and finished with five pages of evidence to support a claim of serious mental injury. It was also, of course, atrociously drafted. It took me more than four hours to read it (making notes for a strike out application) so there’s £1200 right there. Drafting the strike out application – that’s at least 50% as much time again, so now we’re at £3,000.

Perhaps where you are the judges will respond favourably to ‘Well this is obviously complete nonsense, your honour – can you strike it out for me?’, but not where I am.

Anonymous

Steve, it is not ridiculous to assert that lawyers shouldn’t overcharge.

Yours is a classic example of doing work that is not needed and then overcharging for it.

If a LIP sends you PofC which is overlong or not compliant, you don’t need to spend hours reading through, pondering and making notes against every point. To do so is to artificially churn work. You simply apply for strike out on the basis that PofC is not compliant. £300 per hour is excessive to charge for time when you’re up against a LIP – 10% of this would bd more realistic. It doesn’t take 2 hours to draft a strike out form. 50% of £1,200 is £600, so this would take your fees to £1,800, not £3,000. Overall you’re billing £3,000 for max £100 of work.

If you’re able to find a judge who will let you charge the other side £3,000 then good luck to you, but it is a multiple of the real costs involved.

Anonymous

So today Tom has published a copy and paste from the Tab, and a copy and paste from Twitter. Top journalism, really earning that £3.50 a week.

(9)(4)

Anonymous

Quite a fun article though. Why do you have to be such a tool?

(7)(2)

Anonymous

Sorry Tom.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

The more lawyers discouraged from practising personal injury the better.

On a more serious note though, is anyone surprised? These PI lawyers are so obsessed with the white book they probably satisfy themselves with its content. Is it any wonder therefore that an LIP lost it, after the barrister for the first defendant quoted the 136th passage from the white book that day?

(8)(11)

Anonymous

Clearly at least 4 people reading this thread satisfy themselves to the White Book.

There is White Book law, then there’s real law.

(5)(5)

Anonymous

I use the second volume of the white book as a door stop. I expect many others do the same.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

You could say “she got LiPpy and threw the book at him!”

(9)(0)

Anonymous

The pen is truly mightier than the sword (but then security confiscated the sword on her way in)

(3)(1)

Anonymous

I did enjoy the headline, Legal Cheek. Kudos for that. Every once in a blue moon you do something that could almost be considered clever.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

The gloves are off, and I’m ready to get my hands filthy.

(0)(1)

Ciaran Goggins

Take it to Strasbourg mate.

(3)(0)

Charles Utley

Goodness, what a fuss. In my early days at the Bar it was entirely normal for Master Waldman to throw the White Book at counsel.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Did he fine himself £8,200?

(1)(0)

Comments are closed.

Related Stories