A 'Guide' to Representing Yourself in Court re Customs

This is just a draft and will be updated. Any help or input would be greatly appreciated. 

We are NOT lawyers. This is simply our attempt to help you in court if your are the 'Litigant in Person' ... in other words DIY defence. lt's based purely on our personal experiences and views and you should bear that in mind at all times.

Representing yourself in court is called 'Litigant in Person' (LIP). Ideally everyone should have a lawyer representing them but because the access to Legal Aid is a virtual zero, you, yourself, have to instruct a lawyer to act for you. This costs money and not an inconsiderable amount either. A further problem is actually finding a lawyer who understands Condemnation Proceedings and people have indeed found this difficult. Unfortunately most people don't have the funds to pay a lawyer and so are left with no alternative but to defend themselves. This is no mean feat and you have to be prepared to put in a lot of effort and research. lf you don't do this, you are simply wasting your time and the courts ... and you will be invariably liable to costs!

Being a LIP means you will be frowned upon by the prosecution and more often than not, the bench. lt's up to you to show that you are not wasting their time.

Putting aside the details of your case for the moment, the thing that you have to learn is the rules and procedures of the court. View it as a game albeit a very serious game. Playing it without knowing the rules will no doubt end up pissing the bench off and alienating them ... not good! By knowing the rules and procedures and adhering yourself to them will go a very long way to avoiding this. Another point is not to turn up looking like something the cat's dragged in ... courts view that as disrespectful. Personally, not only would l go dressed in something smart, l go dressed in clothes that l feel good in. ln fact, l'd say dress as though you are going on a first date ... nothing too flashy and definitely cut down on the 'bling'.

l'd also advise for you to take a McKenzie Friend who can assist you whilst in court. We return to what a McKenzie Friend is in more deail later. 

Your day in court will be something like this but be aware that the bench have the power to change it should they so wish. Again we'll go deeper into later. Anyway, a brief guide :-

1. The judge enters and you all stand up. The judge then gives a brief outline of the case and you will be asked to identify yourselves and state that you are the owner of the goods in question re the Condemnation Proceedings

2. Prosecution then makes a statement outlining the case against you. Do NOT interrupt. lt is NOT your time to speak. Shut up and listen and take notes of what prosecution are saying.

3. Prosecution will then call their witness who will then be sworn in. Prosecution will then ask this witness questions which they believe will prove their case against you. Do NOT interrupt. lt is NOT your time to speak. Shut up and listen and take notes of what prosecution are saying. Pick up on the points you disagree with and prepare. (Note:- you can 'object' but be sure you know what an objection means before you do it. An objection is usually at something that you deem irrelevant to the case or has been added to the original case against you. i.e. It was not in the prosecutions bundle. Tread warily here unless you are confident of your objection. If not, wait for your turn to cross-examine)

4. Prosecution will then finish and now it's your turn to cross-examine the witness on their evidence. You CANNOT make statements, you HAVE to ask questions. lf you don't know the difference you're going to piss the bench off ... not good.

5. You will then finish and prosecution will have the opportunity to try and clarify any points you brought up that discredit their case. Do NOT interrupt. lt is NOT your time to speak

6. Then it is vice-versa, you will be sworn in etc. and defence will ask you questions to substantiate your defence and attack the prosecutions case.(it can be a little more complicated if you are the single defendant but again we'll cover that later)

7. Prosecution will then cross-examine you

8. Defence will have the opportunity to cross-examine you to clarify any points brought up by prosecution when they were questioning you.

9. You then leave the witness box and return to your seat. You then have the opportunity to make a statement about your case (prosecution made theirs at the beginning).

10. The judge will then make their judgement.


  1. Is this in magistrates court? Or Civil court? I assumed that as the UKBA use the magistrates court as a rubber stamp for condemnation hearings, that an appeal would be heard in magistrates?

  2. yes its civil law. not quite sure but think an appeal is crown court.

  3. For any Scottish victims,
    (A) Anyone giving legal advice without a gualification licence in Scotland, Even for free, is a criminal offence that carries a sentence of imprisonment.
    This means the court advisory officer will refuse to assist as they are not qualified to that standard.
    (B) First you will have a large envelope deliverd to your address by Sheriff Officers, it will be from the Advocate General for Scotland and will contain all the reasons your goods were seized and a court date.
    You must attend on that date and declare you will be challinging the plea for decree to destroy your property as forfiet another date will be set for an options hearing.
    (C) At this hearing you must have delivered your answers to the original papers called condisendences, each one must be answered in numerical fashion and eithe denied or agreed, but beware there are rules that must be observed, It is not sufficient to just answer "Denied" You must write "Denied in avare" and then state your reason for dening the condicendance. If you agree with anyting write "agreed"
    You must deliver this to the court usually a month prior to the hearing called the "Options hearing" The solicitor for the Customs has the opportunity to alter the condicendences prior to the options hearing and you have the same right but all altered documents must be deliverd to
    both parties and the court.

    At the options hearing the court will be handed a "Closed document" by the pursuer (customs solicitor) and no further alterations can be made by either side.


  4. Looks like Pro se legal representation is one of the best options right now for many people. I first thought it would be really hard if you are the one defending yourself but found out sometimes it is much better just if you know what to say and what not to say. It's also necessary to take note of some tips if you're going to represent yourself in court:
    1. Show respect for the judge, the court clerks, and other people in the courtroom(which is why it is necessary that you do not interrupt).
    2. Act professionally in court. Explain your side and don't focus on other things not related to the case.
    3. Always be prepared for the court hearing. Bring necessary documents at all times. You don't know when you might need them.


"In the eyes of the Tribunal the review letter contained several preconceptions, prejudgments and non-sequiturs"

"the absurdity of this reason is demonstrated by simply stating it"

"We therefore find that Mr Sked misdirected himself as to the Policy in carrying out the review and his decision is therefore one that no reasonable review officer could have arrived at."

... commonly known here at N2D as 'Skeds' ... that is to say these are Judges comments regarding UKBA Review Officer Ian Sked's reasons for rejecting peoples appeals against seizures.

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