When one goes into a police station (okay, when one is brought in for a recordable offence), one is fingerprinted and identified against big databases of identities. Even if this doesn’t happen, there is still a degree of record checking and matching.

For example, “do we have anyone in the system with this date of birth and similar features but different name?” And other efforts to match the prisoner’s identity with one known to the master database.

In court there appears no effort to exercise skepticism with respect to the litigants’ identities and little safeguards in the way of preventing anyone for standing in for our impersonating any of the parties. Not in the courtroom, and not upon entering the building and passing security. Not even inspection of ID documents.

From experience, this appears true in the magistrates', Crown, and county courts although in criminal proceedings one is asked to confirm one’s identity including date of birth is correct.

In general, is there a reason for this lack of exercised skepticism and forensic scrutiny when courts are generally so principally concerned with truth and probity?

Apart from this empirical/historical question about court practice, what about the legality? One can easily imagine that in Criminal proceedings, impersonating a defendant and then actively, explicitly deceiving the court is unequivocal contempt and perjury.

But suppose one wishes to bring a civil action under an alias that one assumes from the beginning of pre-action proceedings until the conclusion of the action. Practically speaking there appears to be nothing standing in the way of this.

And furthermore, I recall a decision from either the UKHL or the EWCA that discussed how generally the laws of England have always allowed one to assume and use whatever name one may please to.

How does this compute with the litigation question here? Is there anything unlawful of assuming a different name under which one wages a lawsuit?

  • 1
    "Practically speaking there appears to be nothing standing in the way of this" - you mean, apart from the fact that you would get an unenforcable judgement because its ifn favour of someone else, not you.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 3:31
  • 1
    All parties to criminal proceedings are checked against PNC as a minimum.
    – user35069
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 6:47

1 Answer 1


In an adversarial legal system, the parties are responsible for framing the issues in dispute and adducing relevant evidence. The parties, and perhaps more importantly their lawyers, also have an obligation of candour to the court. Courts routinely accept unchallenged assertions because there are serious consequences for misleading the court, and the opponent (rather than the court which should remain neutral) is in the best position to investigate and prove any suspected dishonesty.

It is a matter for the party commencing proceedings (plaintiff or prosecutor) to decide how the parties will be named. People often change their names, and may use multiple spellings. It is not uncommon for typographical or other errors to appear. Generally, it is in the interest of at least one party to name the parties "correctly," ie. consistently with other government records that will be used to enforce any judgment, but a person's name is ultimately a formal matter that can be corrected if necessary. In cases of uncertainty, aliases can be specified, as occurred in Microsoft v McDonald (aka Gary Webb) [2006] EWHC 3410 (Ch).

A person who is genuinely known by an alias (ie. the use of the alias is not part of an attempt to mislead the court) should use their "real" name in court, but could potentially conduct litigation using the alias without anybody noticing. However, court proceedings are public and this would not necessarily protect the person's identity. To achieve this, an anonymity order under CPR 39.2 is required, as explained in XXX v Camden London Borough Council [2020] EWCA Civ 1468 [13]–[22].

  • Whats the penaltyfor pulling off stunts like "Plaintiff, is the man sitting in the defense box the man who raped you?" "Yes." "Ah, but the man sitting in the box is not the man who is charged with the crime!" In England?
    – nick012000
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 13:16

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