The challenges presented for, and by, Litigants in Person

The Privy Council handed down a judgment on 12 December 2016, which offers yet another illustration of the challenges presented for, and by, Litigants in Person (LiPs), particularly in jurisdictions such as the BVI, the Cayman Islands, and Bermuda.

In Scatliffe v Scatliffe (British Virgin Islands) [2016] UKPC 36 (12 December 2016), the Privy Council was concerned with an appeal from the BVI against an order for ancillary relief, further to divorce proceedings. Lord Wilson noted as follows, in giving the Board’s opinion:

Unfortunately the husband chose to represent himself both before the trial judge and before the Court of Appeal. As a layman, he inevitably betrayed limited understanding of what was relevant and, on appeal, of his inability to give his evidence again. The extensive transcripts of the proceedings show an admirable degree of patience and courtesy which both courts extended to him. Before the Board, however, the husband has been represented by Mr Farara QC, who has presented the appeal with fine judgement, eloquence and charm“.  

The husband, it should be noted, was now aged 70, and he had suffered the misfortune of a diabetes-related amputation of his left leg, and subsequent confinement to his wheelchair, in 2009.

So, without wanting to cause any offence to Mr. Scatliffe, a politically incorrect poet might potentially have described Mr. Scatliffe not only as an LiP, but also as an OAP Amputee Divorcee.

The Privy Council’s judgment should also be of incidental interest to divorce lawyers in jurisdictions such as Bermuda, Cayman and the BVI in, considering, as it does, the proper approach to the division of matrimonial and non-matrimonial property, and the disclosure of assets, upon divorce, in such jurisdictions (where local statutory law essentially follows English law in this respect).

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