An unregulated pro bono representative for a discrimination claimant turns up at tribunal intoxicated. We don't keep a breathalyser handy and can hardly say, like a character in a bad costume drama, "You, sir, are drunk". (Apart from anything else, there is always the risk of the reply, "And you, sir, are ugly; but tomorrow I shall be sober".)
So we decide to press on, in the hope he had merely had an unfortunate whisky spillage accident and had got dressed in the dark; or that he will sober up.
Our hope is misplaced; but what does happen is that it becomes obvious the claimant needs an interpreter. We keep asking the drunken representative, who shares the claimant's mother tongue, whether an interpreter might be a good idea. He doesn't really respond, except by talking to the claimant, who is being cross-examined at the time so shouldn't be spoken to by his representative in any language, in a loud stage-whisper he seems to think we can't hear.
Eventually, we have to adjourn to another day when an interpreter will be present.
Because the representative is acting pro bono, we have no power to award costs against him. Were a costs application to be made against the claimant (one isn't) I doubt we would grant it because the claimant appears to be as much a victim of his representative's incompetence as the respondent is.
If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that it can be in a party's own interests to assist the other side. Taking no steps to help (e.g. suggesting the other party gets an interpreter), meaning a trial has to be abandoned, is potentially a good idea tactically only if you are confident of obtaining a costs order; and I am not sure one can ever be confident of this in a tribunal.
This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of Chambers or by Chambers as a whole.
Please note that we do not give legal advice on individual cases which may relate to this content other than by way of formal instruction of a member of Hardwicke. However if you have any other queries about this content please contact: