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Academics from The Open University contribute to new BBC Ideas film: ‘Does it ever pay to represent yourself in court?’

Appearing in court without representation is becoming increasingly common. But is it a sensible strategy? Academics from The Open University’s Open Justice Centre have answered exactly this question in a new BBC Ideas film titled ‘Does it ever pay to represent yourself in court?’.

Open Justice Centre Director Francine Ryan, Senior Lecturer in Law Stephanie Pywell and Interim Head of the OU Law School Hugh McFaul all contributed to the short film. They were joined by Trustee of Law for Life Michael Olatokun and representatives from the Open Justice Centre’s collaborative partner, Support Through Court, including Lizzie Irons and Pauline Wilson.

According to experts, representing yourself is a risky strategy, whether you’re involved in a civil or criminal case. The experience of being a litigate in person – someone who represents themselves in court – can be both daunting and stressful.

Francine Ryan said: “Until we engage in the legal process, we often don’t understand the value of access to justice. Of course, with legal costs rising and access to free representation not always available, it’s not particularly surprising 18,000 a month choose to represent themselves. But in this video, we explain why it’s not always the best strategy, especially when you hear that of those 18,000, nine out of ten of them say it adversely affects their life.”

Available to view on the award-wining BBC Ideas website, the short film was created and released to support BBC court drama series ‘You Don’t Know Me’ which follows the story of Hero who’s accused of murder but swears he’s innocent.

BBC Ideas content is commissioned by Broadcast and Partnerships at the OU, with support from all faculties. ‘Does it ever pay to represent yourself in court?’ was commissioned by the Faculty of Business and Law, with particular relevance to Bachelor of Laws (Honours), Solicitor Exam Qualification, Evidence Law, and Justice in Action.

Watch the video at:

For more information about The Open University, head to or for more information on the Open Justice Centre, visit

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