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This article is written by Shoumik Chowdary a fourth-year BA LLB student at Benett University pursuing a Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation, and Dispute resolution from Lawsikho. This article has been edited by Ojuswi (Associate, Lawsikho). 

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Introduction

Any individual who is subject to legal action of any kind can pursue or defend the case in question by either retaining the services of an attorney or by appearing in court on their behalf. It is not simple to conduct a case without having professional legal training, and many people may find it difficult to grasp the legal laws and processes that are followed in court. Because of this, it is strongly recommended that litigants who are representing themselves independently obtain the counsel, or help of a qualified legal expert. If the parties are going to represent themselves in court, the parties must be aware of the many rules and regulations that they are required to follow to ensure that the parties and their case are following the rules and regulations. The parties are expected to do research and learn about the relevant laws, case law, procedures, and rules that will be used in court. 

Rights and responsibilities of  parties when they represent themselves in the court

Rights of parties in the court

If the parties are the people involved in a court matter, they have the right to either retain the services of a lawyer or represent themselves in court. Before settling on a decision, the parties should give some thought to the pros and cons associated with each possibility, even though this is a matter of personal preference.

In certain proceedings, like small claims tribunals, Employment claims tribunals, or community dispute resolution tribunals, The advocates are not allowed to represent their clients. But CDRT has some exceptions.  

What does representing themselves mean

Parties who want to represent themselves in court are responsible for managing all court proceedings and petitions on their own, without the assistance of a lawyer. It is standard procedure to refer to parties as litigants-in-person (LIP) in legal proceedings. Parties in their capacity as LIPs shall be held to the same standard as attorneys. The parties should not anticipate that the court will make any exceptions or reduce any of its procedural rules and requirements for the parties.

  • The parties should become familiar with the relevant laws and legal concepts, as well as the types of defences that are available to them under the law.
  • Each side is responsible for making their own legal preparations as much as they can.
  • At each hearing, parties are required to present their arguments and evidence.
  • They are needed to be sure on following all the regulations, the judge’s directives, and the legal processes.

What should the parties consider

Parties should represent themselves only if they are sure.

  • Concerning the conduct of the legal proceedings.
  • Invest time and energy into preparing your argument for presentation in court.
  • The parties argue their case in front of the court and the prosecutor or the attorney for the defence.

The parties might want to talk to an attorney or hire one to assist them to determine whether they wish to represent themselves in court or hire a lawyer to do it for them. This could help the parties make a more informed choice.

Can the parties represent themselves in criminal and civil cases

Self-representation in a criminal case

Yes, if the parties are accused in a criminal case, the parties can be represented in their own case.

It is always suggested that it is best to seek the advice of an experienced criminal lawyer to help the parties to better decide whether they wish to proceed as a self-represented accused or to be represented by legal counsel. Because criminal charges often carry heavy penalties for an individual, it is always best to seek the advice of an experienced criminal lawyer.

Can you engage a lawyer to represent you halfway through the proceedings

During the proceedings, the parties may consult with legal counsel whenever they see fit. Should any party desire to do so, they could request an adjournment (also known as a postponement) of the proceedings by orally alerting the judge while the case is still being heard in court. If the party’s motion for an adjournment is granted, the parties will be sent a mention slip that details the location, date, and time of the subsequent court hearing. The party’s attorney that you have retained will then represent you in the following hearings and processes once you have contracted their services.

Pre-trial conference

A Pre-Trial Conference is scheduled (PTC) if the parties proceed to court. A PTC determines if the case is ready for trial. Self-represented accused must attend PTC with the prosecution. The parties and prosecution notify the court what evidence they’ll present on trial day. Parties can conduct a Criminal Case Disclosure Conference before trial (CCDC). The court will schedule the trial after the PTC. Meanwhile, prepare for trial and court dates.

A CCDC helps trials go smoothly by forcing both sides to explain their reasons and evidence at the outset. Only limited scenarios can employ CCDC. CCDC participation is voluntary for parties. If the parties participate in CCDC, they may learn about the prosecution’s case before trial. If the parties choose CCDC, the court will give you and the prosecution regulations to observe. This involves the prosecution presenting its “Case for the Prosecution,” which is the parties’ evidence. Defence cases must be written in English and delivered to the court and prosecution. Each party will receive a copy of the prosecution’s Case for Prosecution and any other written statements they made during the investigation. The prosecution’s case and written statements should be reviewed by both sides before the trial. Supreme Court CCDCs occur weekly. Attendance is restricted.

Preparing for trial and court hearings 

Before the trial, it is up to the parties to make sure that all the witnesses show up on the day of the trial. If the parties don’t know if a witness will show up, they can ask for a Summons to a Witness to be sent to that person at the Crime Registry. This costs $20 per summon that is sent out. A court process server will give the document to the people who need to see it.

Both parties must have all necessary evidence before the trial. Documents and photographs must be duplicated at least four times. The original document will be delivered to the court, with duplicates for the prosecution, each witness, and themselves. A judge might utilise digital evidence like WhatsApp communication in court. Make sure the document or photo maker is in court. If not, the document may not be utilised in court.

What is a prosecutor’s case 

If the party should want to assert its right to a trial, the prosecutor will initially submit the case to the court. This can be accomplished by offering an overview of the state’s case against the defendant. After that, the prosecution will use the Examination-in-Chief to call upon its witnesses and have them deliver their testimony. The parties should take notes for their reference while paying close attention to the questions made by the prosecution and the responses offered by the witnesses during the trial. Following the conclusion of the prosecution’s Examination-in-Chief, you will have the opportunity to engage in what is known as cross-examination with the witnesses presented by the prosecution.

Because the party is representing themselves in this matter, it is up to the party to formulate appropriate questions that he feels will be beneficial for his defence. The party is not permitted to ask the witnesses any questions that might frighten, insult, or embarrass them in any way. Party could also want to offer the witness any documented or photographic evidence to question what the witness said during the Examination-in-Chief. This might be done if you have any such evidence.

End trail

The party and the prosecutor will make closing arguments before the judge. This permits both sides to offer facts and arguments to persuade the judge to rule in their favour. The prosecution will give its final arguments after you. In your closing argument, the party must focus on the defence and explain why the court should believe the party who is self-representing. The party can also discuss trial evidence. If the party can’t recall what was stated during the trial, the party can get the Notes of Evidence from the Crime Registry on Level 1 of the State Courts. The Notes of Evidence are word-for-word transcripts of what the judge, prosecution, defence, and witnesses stated during the trial. Note that the Notes of Evidence won’t be available immediately after all the evidence has been given because the trial stages didn’t occur on the same day. Closing arguments cannot include fresh evidence.

Self- representation in civil cases

Yes, any individual who is the target of a civil lawsuit can defend or pursue the matter on their own by representing themselves in court. The parties have the option of either being represented by a lawyer or representing by your own in the case.

If a party chooses to defend themselves, the court will hold them to the same standards as lawyers. In preparing and conducting your lawsuit, the party must follow the same rules. The party must follow laws and procedures. The party should also realise that the court will not retry the case once determined. A civil case normally begins with a summons. If there’s no real disagreement regarding the law or how to read a document, an original summons should be issued. If there’s a factual party, a summons is issued. A lawsuit must be served. If not, getting a default judgement afterwards can be difficult. If a party intends to defend, they must tell the court and the plaintiff. The party must file an appearance memo within a particular time. parties’ defence must be filed with the court and given to the plaintiff or his party. A judgement could be entered against the party if the other party doesn’t submit or serve the party a memorandum of appearance or defence it is called a default judgement. Each party must submit a claim. True. The court may dismiss a lawsuit if a party misses details or the party’s claim is unclear.

Pre-trial and interlocutory application 

The party must follow court norms during pre-trial. It comprises exchanging papers with the opposite party, gathering evidence to prepare your case, compiling, and exchanging witness statements, etc. Each step complies with the time. If a party makes a mistake in pleadings, they can modify it once without court permission. Changing filings after the close of pleadings requires court authority. A civil litigation attorney can assist you to follow the proper procedure and include accurate information in your filings.

Party may file or answer interlocutory applications. Interlocutory applications involve summonses and affidavits. A party may need an order to reveal their records. A party may deplete assets to avoid using them to settle a court’s judgement. The party may seek a Mareva injunction. Preparing and filing interlocutory applications correctly and on time can affect the result of your case. After pre-trial issues are resolved, the case will be tried. Parties must have exchanged all evidence-in-chief affidavits and documentary proof. If a party misses or fails to disclose evidence, they may not be able to use it at a party. The other party may be represented by skilled civil litigation lawyers who know the rules and processes. They use them to benefit their clients. Complex litigation. Errors are costly. Self-defence may cost more than hiring an attorney.

Presenting, testing evidence, and closing arguments in the court

The parties must file their opening statement a few days before trial. The opening statement must quickly outline the facts and law. A skilled lawyer knows the law and how to apply it. Before the party approaches the court, familiarise yourself with the court etiquette. The Court is intimidating. If the party is unfamiliar with the court, they may want to hire a lawyer. A civil litigator will help you build a compelling case. They can employ documentary evidence instead of evidence-in-chief. They know how to ask questions and use documents or witnesses to refute the other party’s proof. They know when to object to opposing counsel’s query. A seasoned lawyer knows what’s relevant. They can make a compelling argument. When closing arguments are presented by a professional litigator, he or she will summarise your case and focus on the key issues. A closing argument should cite legal authorities. A civil litigation lawyer will be conversant with recent court judgments, laws, and other elements supporting your case. Civil lawsuit parties are urged to settle in Singapore. If you are considering accepting an offer, you may want to consult a civil lawyer. They know how to examine the case and decide.

What are the challenges faced by self-representation in courts

People who seek to represent themselves in court have had access to more resources in recent years, including toolkits, information, books, and online sites created by the judicial system in Singapore. If the party doesn’t obtain the outcomes they desire and end up losing the case in court, representing yourself in court might not be the greatest decision, even though doing so will save you money. Challenges to be further discussed:

Face off of a non-legal person against a legal professional in court

You may have a lot of work if the opposite party has an attorney. Lawyers are trained experts who know how to perform in court, argue their cases, and present them. Many lawyers will aid you even if they’re against you. Their major role is to help their client. Going slowly is smart. Unless it’s essential, you should always consult a lawyer.

Self-incrimination 

The party may say or sign things in court that incriminate and hurt the case if the party represents itself. The party may not know how to win or defend a legal lawsuit. Provocation may be the only defence, but the law does not consider it a mitigating element. The court may believe you overreacted and rule against you. Experienced lawyers know what the law and court want and what to leave out or add to your case for court.

Emotions

The party is still a human with feelings, even if they want to keep them in check when representing themselves. In tough instances, it may be difficult to keep them cool, especially if the other side presents erroneous hypotheses or versions of events. Emotions hinder judgement and undermine the parties’ arguments. Instead of pointing out the opposing side’s weaknesses, the party might use emotional arguments. the party may even cry in court. 

Rules and practice directions

Self-represented litigants must know and observe the regulations. The court wouldn’t let the party handle the case however he/she wants to just because the party doesn’t have it. The party can’t claim ignorance of judicial procedure. Even if the party knows that he/she will be losing the trial, the party should know court rules and procedures. The judge can’t bend the rules for the party. The judge in the case may give the party guidance about the court, but won’t instruct he/she on what to say or do to win.

Conclusion

Having discussed the self-representation of parties in Singapore court, we have listed the rights and responsibilities of each party while representing in court, what the party should be considering and the rights of the parties in court.

Detailed observation and steps to understand the pros and cons of self-representation in a criminal and civil case from pre-trial, arguments, interlocutory application, preparing & hearing of the case, presenting, testing evidence and close arguments have been stated. Looking at the above situation we can state that self-representation consumes a lot of time and needs a lot of knowledge of the rules and procedures of court which is difficult for a common man to fight his case. The difficulty of the case differs from a criminal case to a civil case.

Reference


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