Letter: Legal champions

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The Independent Online
IT IS unfair of Sophie Goodchild to mock litigants in person ("DIY Rumpoles bring havoc to the law courts", 18 July). As she says, they are people who do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford lawyers for litigation of any size. This group has expanded over the years, and may now form the majority of the population, yet if they go to court they are regarded as eccentrics.

They are disadvantaged not only by their lack of knowledge of the law and legal procedure but also by the irritation (and prejudice) of judges. And although they cannot afford their own lawyer, they will be ordered to pay for their opponent's lawyers on losing, an event which does not always indicate a weaker case.

Equal access to the law should be a basic right. More advice and less prejudice would certainly help, but the real problem is the cost of litigation, and especially the punitive award of costs against the loser. However, any solution that supports litigants in person would result in less money going to lawyers, the most powerful self-interest group in the land, and not ones to give up their privileges without a mighty struggle.

MAURICE FLETCHER

Twickenham, Middlesex

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