The appeal arose as a result of the district judge at first instance refusing to allow a litigant in person to submit a signed witness statement and to give oral evidence on two key areas of dispute in the case.

At an earlier directions hearing the litigant in person was told that in order to submit evidence it must be in the proper form – i.e a sworn witness statement – and that the witness should be available for cross-examination. Following the hearing the litigant in person corresponded with the court regarding the correct procedure to follow but received conflicting information with one District Judge directing that it was too late for the litigant in person to rely on ‘further’ evidence but another District Judge expressing the view that, provided it had been served on the other side and sent to the court, the litigant in person was permitted to rely on such evidence.

At the final hearing the witness had attended court to give evidence and the litigant in person told the judge that the statement had been served on the other side and sent to the welfare officer who had considered elements of the issues raised within that statement in her own report. The District Judge refused to read the statement and refused the application to hear evidence from the witness. The judge then went on to hear from the welfare officer, the parties and and the respondent’s partner and made findings on the two crucial areas in dispute without hearing from the witness whose evidence, it was said, went to the heart of both issues. The findings were against the litigant in person’s case. After further delay caused by the appeal process the appeal was finally heard some 9 months later and the findings were set aside by the appeal judge, the court accepting that there had been a serious procedural irregularity and that this had affected the litigant in person’s right to a fair trial.

Cases relied on for the appeal included the case of Re B (A Child)  [2012] EWCA Civ 1742 where it was held that:“…in this case, I am very clearly of the view that the judge’s case management decisions not only deprived the mother of the opportunity to answer the case against her but also deprived the court of evidence that was necessary to enable it to make reliable findings of fact.(para 36, Re B  [2012] EWCA Civ 1742).”