There has been a considerable growth for potential disputes and tribunals are specialist in the sense that they are set up to resolve a dispute in a particular area, for example, mental health or employment tribunals.
They are becoming more popular and common as courts are not well equipped to deal with all cases.
- Carnwath LJ:
"There is no doubt...That tribunals represent one of the most important pillars of the system of justice in this country". Here, he is stating that tribunals are very important and are necessary in order for the civil courts to cope with demand.
1957 Franks Report
This involved tribunals and predicted that they were likely to become an important part of the legal system.
They should be marked by "openness, fairness and impartiality".
- Openness - For the publicity of proceedings and the reasoning behind the decision.
- Fairness - Parties must know what their rights are and be able to present their case fully, as well as being aware of the case being presented to them.
- Impartiality - Tribunals should be free of undue influence from the Government department concerned in that subject area.
Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007
Made tribunals a unified structure with different tiers.
- First tier - Deal with around 300, 000 cases a year with around 200 judges and 3600 lay people. It operates at 7 chambers (divisions) such as:
Social entitlement chamber which covers a wide range of matters such as child support, criminal injuries compensation and gender recognition.
- Upper tier - This tier is divided into 4 chambers such as:
Administrative appeals chamber which hears appeals from the social entitlement chamber; health, education and social care chamber; and the war pensions and armed forces compensation chamber.
Procedure of Tribunals
- Both sides are given the opportunity to present their case. The setting can be formal with witnesses giving evidence under oath and being cross examined such as in employment or asylum tribunals.
- Other tribunals operate a less formal setting.
- Representation funding is available in few tribunals so most parties have no lawyer and present their own case.
- Tribunal judges ensure that the applicant puts forward their case as fully as possible.
- The decision of the tribunal is legally binding.
Advantages of Tribunals
- The decision made by the judge at the tribunal is legally binding and so the parties are compelled to follow the judgement. This makes the process more formal and fair for everyone involved.
- They are a cheaper alternative to courts and parties represent themselves which makes them cost efficient in the sense that the claimant is less likely to lose money in the outcome.
- Hearings at tribunals are much faster than in courts as they can usually be dealt with in a day which saves time for everyone involved.
Disadvantages of Tribunals
- There are a lack of appeals available if a party is not happy with the judgement which makes them compelling and uncertain.
- Due to the high number of cases being heard by tribunals, there can be a delay in actually getting a hearing.
- Public funding is not available for most tribunals so an applicant may be put at a disadvantage if the other side uses a lawyer which can make the process unfair.