HDR Candidate: Karma Tshering

Advisors: Professor Heather Douglas (Principal) and Associate Professor Francesca Bartlett (Associate)

Title: Dealing with the unrepresented defendants in criminal matters - A comparative study between Australia and Bhutan

Abstract

Self-representation by criminal defendants is perceived to be an everyday phenomenon in courts in Bhutan. However, issues arising out of this phenomenon have not been considered in research. The demographics of self-represented litigants in the criminal justice system has not been documented and is not understood. Similarly, the role of judicial responses to the problem of self-representation in criminal trials has been unexamined. To date there has been little coordinated policy or legislative response from the state. Against this backdrop a set of judicial forms, in which defendants must complete demographic information and information about their decision to be self-represented, was examined. A series of qualitative interviews was also conducted with the judiciary of Bhutan. The presentation elucidates the findings of the study on how many criminal defendants are representing themselves; who they are, reasons for their self-representation, their needs and difficulties, and availability of any specific services for self-represented litigants in the courts in Bhutan. Based on the findings the research will produce an evidence-informed set of recommendations for policy, legislative and judicial responses to effectively manage self-representation by criminal defendants and ensure them equal and fair justice.