A: This happens quite often because unfortunately, a lot of judges and magistrates in Trinidad & Tobago barely know the law themselves. It seems like a big scam where these people on the bench collude with lawyers to rip off the citizens of our country.
Every person has the statutory right to represent him/herself at the Magistrates' Court and NO Magistrate can force you to retain an attorney... NONE!
According to the Petty Civil Courts Act 1911, as amended:
35. (1) Any party may appear at the hearing to conduct his action in person OR may be represented by an Attorney-at-law.
(2) Any person may appear and conduct the case of his wife or child or servant being a member of his household. (this means that a husband may represent his wife or child)
(3) Subject as aforesaid no person, not being an Attorney-at-law duly retained, shall be heard on behalf of any party to any action or other proceeding (this means that, for example, your law student nephew cannot represent you at court)
Despite this, I would always suggest that if your matter may involve imprisonment you should retain legal counsel, but at the end of the day, it's still your choice.
Beware of the legal fraternity mafia!