The courts do have the jurisdiction to revoke final orders but the party seeking the revocation will have an uphill battle.

In HSBC Bank Plc v Kojima, HSBC made an unsecured loan to the defendant. Default occurred and proceedings were commenced. The defendant, who was a litigant in person, partially admitted liability. The court ordered that a charging order be secured over the defendant's property for the admitted amount. That order was a final order. The defendant executed the charge. He later obtained legal advice and applied to withdraw his admission, have the order revoked, amend his defence and bring a counterclaim.

The court rejected the applications on the basis that there had been no material change in circumstances, the judge had not been misled and it would be unjust to HSBC to reopen the dispute. The defendant appealed on the basis of the court's general power to revoke an order and that an injustice would be done to the defendant not to do so as only after having taken legal advice did he realise he had an arguable defence.

The court dismissed the appeal. The order was a final order disposing of the proceedings, subject to appeal. It should not be equated with a default judgment as it had been decided on the merits following admission. Whether there had been a material change or the judge had been misled was not as relevant as the overriding public interest in finality. Once a party had admitted a claim and judgment had been given, the other party was entitled to assume, barring an appeal, that that was an end to the matter. The court was entitled, in a case such as this, to conclude that the delay in withdrawing the admission militated against allowing revocation due to prejudice or injustice to HSBC. The public interest consideration was on its own a sufficient reason for dismissing the application.

Things to consider

Courts are generally willing to do all they can to assist litigants in person. But where a final order has been made against that person, the court then becomes more concerned with the public interest in finality of claims, rather than re-opening claims to enable the defendant to have the benefit of legal advice.