Reform of the Justice System

Reform of the Justice System is one of Her Majesty's Government's priorities. Since 1997 they have implemented major improvements in the criminal and civil courts. In 2001 Sir Andrew Leggatt was asked to review the Tribunal System. In August 2001, the Government published Sir Andrew's radical blueprint for reform Tribunals for Users: One System, One Service. Since then the Government have been determining how best to meet the challenge set by Sir Andrew. They have taken a wide range of views, including through a formal consultation exercise.

The government has decided that the best way to take Tribunal reform forward is to bring most non-developed central government tribunals together into a single service. The service will reflect the needs and specialism of individual jurisdictions and will in particular respect the difference between party v party and citizens v state tribunals. It will be a distinct part of the justice system. Initially the new service will be based on the ten largest tribunals. The following already form the Lord Chancellors Department (LCD)

The Leggatt review of Tribunals is the most comprehensive survey of the System of administrative justice in England and Wales since the Franks Report was published in 1957. The Government shares Sir Andrew's view on the need for improvements and are therefore exploring the unified service together with other options of reforms which have also been recommended by Sir Andrew Leggatt. Over the years, tribunal costs and usage has increased a vast amount. For example, Employment tribunals have risen by 50 percent in the last 2 years.

Legal, management and recruitment expenses alone rose for the UK business from i?? 426 million in 1999 to i?? 633 million in 2001. This means the basic tribunal costs rose four-fold over the past decade during which time annual tribunals claims trebled to a record 130,000 cases. These figures show that the Government is right to want employment tribunal's reform and better dispute resolutions. It urges opponents of change to acknowledge that the tribunal process is getting out of control and damaging UK employment relations (Employment News Weekly).

With the Leggatt report, the Government issued a consultation paper seeking views on its main themes. This formal consultation exercise was closed on the 30th of November 2001. The Tribunals for Users programme which is being lead by the Lord Chancellors Department (LCD), establishes to take forward the work launched by Sir Andrew's report. There are around 70 tribunals across the government. They consider about one million cases a year, the vast majority of which are appeals by citizens against decisions of the state.

Figures from departments indicate that the Government spends about 209 million a year on tribunals, of which 75% is in areas of social security, employment and asylum. In his report, Sir Andrew Leggatt took the view that the creation of a unified tribunal administration was the means of improving the service tribunals provide to their users and making tribunal business more efficient. He also recommended that tribunal jurisdiction should be grounded in Divisions, each headed by a president, in order to strengthen judicial management and appraisal and to exploit any potential to deploy legally qualified tribunal members more flexibly across jurisdictions.

Leggatt argued that the national President (or judicial head), should be supported by Regional Chairmen. He was convinced after carrying out his research that those tribunals that did not have strong judicial leadership were not as able to develop appropriate practices as those that did. The three main elements of the proposed reform by the Leggatt report were to make tribunals more accessible, more effective and more efficient.