Had the old Mexican stand-off with Master Redpath yesterday (Thursday), who was sitting in room 2.21 at the High Court in Belfast.
His list had our client, who was a litigant in person listed for 9.30 with the rest of the mentions at call over. The Master and his office were well aware that I was there to assist my client as the client could not be there due to being out of the jurisdiction. The other side knew this as well.
We were never spoken to until after all the vocational lawyers (solicitors and counsel) had left, and then only by the Master’s clerk who came out asking was there anyone there for Mr X. We said we were there for Mr X and were informed that the matter was adjourned to the 25th February!! I asked whether costs were awarded and the clerk said they weren’t. At least that was something. That was at around 11.30, meaning we waited for over two full hours to hear that, and not once did anyone come out for us.
I accept that a litigant in person should not be in chambers to listen to everyone else’s business, and I also accept that taking the litigant in person in first would only add to the costs of the multitude of other clients.
Why not have a list for litigants in person that actually says the time they will get their chance to go in and see the judge or master? If the list had’ve said Mr and Mrs X at 1130 we would not have turned up at 9.30. Same goes if one of the parties is represented and one is a litigant in person.
You guys and girls in England and Wales will say that court attendances are timed. I know that, as we do a lot of work there. Hearings are rarely timed in family cases in Northern Ireland, meaning that people are turning up at court on time and because of the lawyers jostling for position, and the courts lack of concern about a personal litigant, personal litigants and their McKenzie friends are kicking their heels for hours. Personal litigants are losing money from lost hours at work and having to pay their McKenzie friends.
Who would be a personal litigant! More and more people it would seem…