Would you represent yourself in a court case?
Few qualified lawyers we talk to would. Few solicitors even go to court (if they can avoid it) yet every year thousands of people in the UK face court alone.
Often through no choice of their own, people must represent themselves at a moment that could determine the rest of their life. They may face divorce, eviction from their home, or the loss of their children. In an unfamiliar courtroom, up against a party with legal representation, the process can be stressful and confusing.
We provide a free service across England and Wales, offering support and guidance before, during, and after court. We make sure people facing court are not alone, and help them navigate a complex legal system with dignity and self-assurance. Our volunteers help clients complete the required paperwork and help them think clearly about what they need to say in court so that they can best represent themselves. Where possible, we help people get legal aid or signpost them to firms providing legal aid or pro bono advice, and to specialist agencies for other client needs.
In the last financial year, Support Through Court has assisted people facing court alone without representation on over 49,000 occasions. We help people like Hazel.
Hazel came to us because she needed help completing forms for an upcoming remote child custody hearing. Hazel’s eight-year-old daughter, Eleanor, has learning difficulties, making an already difficult child custody case that bit more challenging for Hazel. Although Hazel had access to a laptop, she had no previous experience of using the internet.
Hazel came to us the day before her hearing, anxious because she’d run out of time to print forms and send them back, and so would need to send information digitally. Hazel wasn’t sure how to access the forms she needed, so we helped her access the required forms and format correspondence. We were able to help Hazel talk through her next steps so she felt prepared for her hearing. As a result of our meeting, Hazel was less stressed about her upcoming hearing and was able to complete all the necessary documents ahead of her court appearance which was a huge weight off her shoulders.
We know there are thousands more people like Hazel, struggling to access justice throughout England and Wales, yet currently, our face-to-face services are at threat of closure.
Adding to current legal news
You might have seen in the news, along with all that’s happening in the legal world at the moment, that we’ve recently launched an emergency appeal in response to recent funding cuts.
The MoJ has funded us for eight years, but will be changing the method of distributing funding to charities working in the space of access to justice. We've been waiting some time for the MoJ to finalise arrangements for future funding; we're now in the position where we can apply for some funding (£25-£75k). With no clarity about how much we'll receive or any information about financial support available in the longer term, our services are at risk.
To help us keep our doors open we’ve launched an urgent appeal. We’re committed to doing everything possible to support people facing court alone as litigants in person, seeking to raise funds to plug the £400k gap, and keep our services open. To end up closing any of our services would have a devastating impact, not just on the clients who need our guidance, but the whole court system.
We’re thankful for the amazing support of law firms across the country, it’s heartening to see so many rallying round us. If you’d like to support us, or share our appeal you can do so at: www.supportthroughcourt.org/doorstojustice