Independent Courts Charity Appeal gains influential backing

An appeal on behalf of an independent charity which provides free services for people who go to court has been backed by the Attorney General, the Lord Chief Justice and the Bar Council. The Personal Support Unit, based at the Royal Courts of Justice, gives emotional and practical support from experienced and trained volunteers to litigants who are unfamiliar with the court environment and procedures.

Set up in 2001, the Personal Support Unit was the subject of the weekly Radio 4 Appeal on Sunday 18th January 2009 at 7.55am, when Lord Woolf spoke in support.

Baroness Scotland QC, Attorney General, said:

"I have seen the Personal Support Unit at work and am very impressed by its professionalism and the way in which it meets a significant need.

The volunteers at the Unit provide valuable support to litigants who are unrepresented and often unfamiliar with the court processes. The support offered is very diverse and might range from accompanying the litigants into court, to speaking to court staff and judges' clerks on their behalf and even to providing quiet and safe areas for them to sit in before and after court appearances.

I know that the Unit works hard within a very limited budget and both needs and deserves financial support."

Any support that can be given would be extremely welcome. People can donate on line at or phone

Or, write to:
Radio 4 Appeal
Room M104
Royal Courts of Justice

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, is also supporting the appeal: "The volunteers from the PSU provide emotional and practical support to unrepresented litigants. Based in the Royal Courts, but also with offices in the Principal Registry of the Family Division, Wandsworth County Court and now firmly established in Manchester's Civil Justice Centre, this remarkable charity will grow and develop. For people on their own in the civil and family courts, often vulnerable and with special needs, the presence of a calm and friendly volunteer ensures that their case is better presented so all those who participate are more effective. I know that the organisation runs on a shoestring and needs support.”

Desmond Browne QC, the Chairman of the Bar Council said:

“Going to court is a daunting business, even for lawyers. For litigants in person a courtroom can be an intimidating place made worse by legal procedure which seems obscure. The Personal Support Unit provides a vital service, offering help and assistance to those who do not have the benefit of legal representation. Its clients are invariably among the most vulnerable in society.

Over the past decade, barristers have watched the number of litigants in person grow and grow. In the present economic climate, it is likely that there will be even more. In our adversarial system, justice demands that disputes are conducted with equality of arms between the parties. Where one party is unrepresented, the risk of an unjust outcome is inevitably increased. For this reason it is vital to support the work of the Personal Support Unit and the Bar Council is proud to do so.”