It is a fundamental principle that a defendant in criminal proceedings should have the right to be represented by a lawyer. Even in criminal proceedings, however, a defendant may choose to be self-represented.

This article starts by considering the legal basis for the right of a defendant to be represented by a lawyer in criminal proceedings in various jurisdictions. It then examines the challenges for courts and lawyers when dealing with self-represented parties and the applicable professional rules. It concludes by providing some practical guidance for lawyers when they are dealing with self-represented parties on the other side.

The right to be represented by a lawyer in criminal proceedings. This is an essential element of the right to a fair trial and is recognized both in international instruments and also in the domestic law of many jurisdictions. Article 14(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which was adopted by the United Nations in 1966, provides as follows:

You must be a subscriber to read this content, or you can register for free to enjoy the current issue.


葛安德 Andrew Godwin
Andrew Godwin

A former partner of Linklaters Shanghai, Andrew Godwin teaches law at Melbourne Law School in Australia, where he is an associate director of its Asian Law Centre. Andrew’s new book is a compilation of China Business Law Journal’s popular Lexicon series, entitled China Lexicon: Defining and translating legal terms. The book is published by Vantage Asia and available at