In 2018 the School of Law at Ulster University published a research report - “Litigants in person in Northern Ireland: barriers to legal participation” - which highlighted the experiences and many challenges faced by litigants in person in the civil and family courts in Northern Ireland.

The report also contained a series of recommendations on what might be done to make it easier for litigants in person to participate more fully in the justice system. The research used the term ‘litigant in person’ to mean someone who does not have a lawyer to represent them in a court hearing.

Following the launch of the research, the Department of Justice, in consultation with Ulster University and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, established the Litigants in Person Reference Group (the Reference Group). The Reference Group’s central purpose is to identify ways to improve the experience of personal litigants generally in the courts system.

The Reference Group provides a space where the voices of litigants in person can be heard on broad issues of concern which in turn, can be fed into wider discussions on access to justice. The Reference Group does not deal with individual cases.

Read the Reference Group’s Terms of Reference

Membership of the Reference Group

The Reference Group is made up of past or current litigants in person (up to 8 members at present) and 1 member from each of the following organisations/sectors:

  • Department of Justice
  • Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service
  • School of Law, Ulster University
  • Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
  • Voluntary sector
  • A practising solicitor
  • A practising barrister
  • A Judge

This membership helps ensure that the full range of perspectives are represented in the Reference Group’s discussions, with equal numbers of litigant in person members and others stakeholders.

The work of the Reference Group

The first meeting of the Reference Group, which normally meets quarterly, was held on 12th February 2019. In our first year (2019-2020), the Reference group undertook a busy programme of work.

This included, for example, a number of courthouse visits jointly with NICTS staff. Following those visits reports were submitted to NICTS containing suggestions for changes which would make it easier for litigants in person to navigate the court environment. You can read more about what the Reference Group has been doing here [insert link]

As NICTS moves forward with a major modernisation programme and the challenging impacts of Covid 19 and remote justice are felt throughout the justice system, the Reference Group will continue its dialogue with stakeholders to make sure that the interests of litigants in person are taken into account.

Are you interested in applying to join the Reference Group?

There are currently a number of vacancies on the Reference Group for litigant in person members.

If you are or have been a litigant in person and would be interested in contributing to the work of the Reference Group, please Professor Gráinne McKeever at


Court Visits


Progress Reports