If the record of a UK civil hearing identifies a party as being "in person", does that mean that the defendant was physically present or that the court had not been informed that the defendant had professional representation?

There are actually three hearings involved. In (1), a court ruled in favour of the plaintiff "in default", I believe the defendant did not attend. In (2), the ruling was vacated due to an administrative irregularity without either party's direct involvement. In (3), the plaintiff's application for the vacation to be vacated (I'm sure there's a better way of putting that...) was rejected, but despite this being primarily between the plaintiff and the court the defendant was identified as "in person".

I've had a fairly detailed explanation of what happened from the plaintiff, but I'm trying to work out what the defendant's position regarding the third hearing was.

  • 1
    Would the phrase "application to the court to set aside its judgment" be a better fit at your point (3)?
    – user35069
    Aug 7, 2023 at 8:38

1 Answer 1


I don't think the record keeping of the lower courts that grant the majority of default judgments is consistent enough to confidently say what "in person" means, especially without a copy of the document to read in its full context. However, it probably means that the defendant physically attended the courtroom and was not represented by a lawyer.

Arguably a defendant who does not attend could still be considered an "in person" (unrepresented) litigant, but I would expect the court to describe this situation with a more explicit term like "no appearance." Your question also appears to indicate that the defendant was not described as "in person" when default judgment was entered. This typically occurs in the defendant's absence, so the addition of the words "in person" to the record of the later hearing suggests that they did attend the later hearing.

  • Thanks for that. I've just checked and the initial record included "To the Defendant You have not replied to the claim form" (although I know that service was acknowledged). The second was "Court has made this order of its own initiative without a hearing" i.e. neither party was directly involved. The third included "Upon hearing the Defendant in person and the Solicitor for the Claimant"... however I find that odd since the third hearing was in relation to a matter between the court and the plaintiff. I wasn't either party and the documents weren't willingly provided by the defendant. Aug 7, 2023 at 7:23
  • I don’t find it odd. Even if the hearing relates to an order entered by the court on its own motion, the “matter” is fundamentally between the plaintiff and defendant. If the defendant is present and wants to argue that the default judgment entered against them should not be reinstated, natural justice requires the court to consider that argument.
    – sjy
    Aug 7, 2023 at 11:58

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