Representing yourself in court or tribunal

People who go to court without a barrister or solicitor are called 'litigants in person'

Disability discrimination hearings take place at:

Your rights

By law, you can claim disability discrimination only if you are considered 'disabled' under the Equality Act.

Discrimination can be:

  • direct, when you are treated less fairly because of your condition
  • indirect, when people make decisions that put you at a disadvantage because of your condition even though they did not mean to
  • harassment, when someone say things or do things that are offensive and connected to your condition or being disabled

For examples, read disability discrimination and the law.

When you can ask for reasonable adjustments

Being a litigant in person

A litigant in person is someone who plans and presents their own legal case instead of a solicitor or barrister.

Changes to the legal aid system mean that some disabled people find it harder to get legal support. 

Check if you can get legal aid

But get some legal advice if you can. Find legal help.

Going to court or tribunal without the help of a lawyer (Advice Now)

Planning your case

You will need to:

  • gather your documents together, such as medical reports, emails and other correspondence
  • get your own witness statements
  • follow the steps in formal procedures

This will take time and effort.

You will need to go to the tribunal or court to present your case.

Warning You can still take someone you trust with you

They can take notes and help you with paperwork. For example:

  • someone from Citizens Advice
  • a law centre worker
  • a friend or family member

Depending on the case, they might also be able to represent you.

County Court

County Court is for civil (non-criminal) matters. Staff should help you with court procedures but they might not have time to support you as much as you would like.

If you do not follow court procedures, you could lose even if your case is strong. If you lose, you will probably have to pay the legal costs of the other side.

Employment tribunals

Employment tribunals do not have fees. If you lose an employment tribunal claim, there's a small chance you may have to pay your employer's costs of going to court. 

Paying costs after an employment tribunal claim (Citizens Advice)

Tribunals provide more support to litigants in person than in County Court. The tribunal staff cannot give you legal advice. But they can support you with what you need to do and how you should do it.

First Tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)

There are no fees for parents or young people to pay when they go to a SEND Tribunal, whatever the result.

The tribunal staff cannot give you legal advice. But they can support you with what you need to do and how you should do it.

It's still a good idea to get help preparing your case though. You can apply for legal help through the legal aid system. This type of support covers preparing a case, but not having a representative with you in the tribunal. Most parents do not have a legal representative at their appeals.

The clerk at the tribunal should tell you what you need to do and when you need to do it.

Appealing to the SEND Tribunal

Getting help making a SEND appeal (IPSEA)

Alternatives to court

Court is a last resort. It’s rare for one side to get everything they want in court. If you have not already, try alternatives such as:

  • making a formal written complaint
  • raising a grievance at work or consulting ACAS

These are cheaper and can be more effective than going to court or tribunal.

Alternatives to court action (Advice Now)

Get some help planning when you’re a litigant in person if you can. Some solicitors may offer free advice.

No win, no fee solicitors may be a good option. But if you lose in County Court, you could still have to pay the other side's costs.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 26/07/2019

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