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11/07/2010
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New AJTC Chair in September

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, has extended Lord Newton's appointment as Chair of the AJTC for a period of 5 months, until 31 August 2009.

Lord NewtonRichard Thomas

Lord Newton became Chair of the AJTC's predecessor body, the Council on Tribunals, in October 1999 and has led it through the transition to its new role.

At the same time, the Lord Chancellor announced the appointment of Richard Thomas as the new chair, a position he will take up on 1 September 2009. Richard Thomas said of his appointment "the AJTC has a key role in improving public justice... I am looking forward to taking up this role and carrying forward the excellent start, which the Council has made under Lord Newton's leadership".

Richard will stand down from his present job as Information Commissioner in June 2009. He has previously been the Director of Public Policy at Clifford Chance and Director of Consumer Affairs at the Office of Fair Trading.

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Other News

Transfer of AIT into unified Tribunals System (pdf, 0.1MB)

 

On 8 May 2009 it was announced that the work of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) would be transferred into the unified tribunals structure. The AIT will be replaced by specialist chambers in each of the First-tier and Upper Tribunals, and onward appeals will be made to the Upper Tribunal instead of review in the High Court. It is hoped that the move will reduce the existing burden of immigration matters on higher courts, and improve the speed and efficiency of the appeals process. The move was confirmed in the Government's response to the consultation 'Immigration Appeals – Fair Decisions, Fair Justice' published jointly by the Tribunals Service and the UK Border Agency.

Regionalisation of the Administrative Court (pdf, 0.1MB)

 

On 21 April 2009, the four regional centres of the Administrative Court in Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester became fully operational and ready to handle Administrative Court work. The Regionalisation of the Administrative Court stems from the report of a Judicial Working Group, led by Lord Justice May, entitled 'Justice Outside London'. Denise Dolan, Project Manager of the Regionalisation of the Administrative Court, discusses the background to the project and details of its implementation.

Green Paper – Rights and Responsibilities:
developing our constitutional framework

 

On 23 March 2009 the Ministry of Justice launched the above Green Paper to kick-start a debate about the future of rights and responsibilities in the UK. The two broad areas for discussion are the fundamental argument for and against a national Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, and the advantages and disadvantages of including particular rights and responsibilities in any such Bill. Of particular interest is the proposal to include a right to 'good administration' and the principles that underpin it. The Green Paper and instructions on how to participate in the debate are available from the MoJ website.

Equitable Life:
Ann Abraham responds to Government response

 

The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham has laid before both Houses of Parliament a report entitled 'Injustice unremedied: the Government's response on Equitable Life'. The report relates to the Government's response to her earlier report in July 2008, of her investigation into the prudential regulation of the Equitable Life Insurance Society. The Ombudsman said, "The Government's response to my report was deeply disappointing. It provided insufficient support for the rejection of my findings of maladministration and injustice. It also begged a rather larger question as to what the purpose of regulation was supposed to be".

Traffic Commissioners:
Draft Secretary of State's Guidance

 

The Department for Transport has commenced a public consultation on the draft Secretary of State's Guidance to the Statutory Traffic Commissioner. The draft Guidance and consultation documents are available on the Department for Transport website (insert link). The consultation closes on 21 July 2009.

Protections for Park Home residents

 

New protection proposals have been announced, which provide more protection for park and mobile home residents from site owners and provide better access to justice. The proposals aim to ensure that park home residents have reputable licensed site owners and are able to easily challenge them on unfair changes to site use, without recourse to the courts system. Following an earlier consultation, park home residents will now have access to the Residential Property Tribunal, through a transfer of jurisdiction on appeals and applications under the Mobile Homes Act 1983 from county courts.

Strengthened consumer protection for tenants

 

A package of new proposals aimed at strengthening protection for tenants living in private rented accommodation was announced on 13 May 2009. The proposals, recommended by the Rugg Review, will be brought forward for consultation and include the creation of an independent regulator for all letting and managing agents, an improved complaints and redress procedure for tenants, and a national register of every private landlord in England.

New Tribunals Judicial Training and Education Prospectus 2009/10-2010/11 (pdf, 1.6MB)

 

The JSB has published its new training prospectus for judges and tribunal members, and those others performing judicial or quasi-judicial functions. It details the range of courses, modules and sessions on offer from the JSB that aim to meet the needs of those who serve in a judicial capacity. The new design and format mirrors the prospectus for the courts' judiciary, which JSB plans to launch later this year.

JSB Prospectus

Along with the new design, many of the courses have undergone or are currently undergoing revision. The new Essential Judicial Skills and Competences course is an introduction to the 'judgecraft' skills required in Tribunals. The Advanced Judicial Skills course is also a new development, again focusing on 'judgecraft' and aimed at those who have experience and wish to enhance their judicial skills. The JSB welcomes nominations from any jurisdictions. Individuals wishing to apply direct should first contact the JSB.

Professor Graham Zellick –
Valuation Tribunal for England (pdf, 0.1MB)

 

In the last edition of Adjust we announced that Professor Graham Zellick had been appointed as the President of the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE), with effect from 5 January 2009. Professor Zellick delivered an address to members of Valuation Tribunals at its conference on 20 February 2009, discussing some of the challenges to the VTE and his aspirations for the new tribunal, as well as commenting on some of the fundamental principles for the VTE.

 

Other News

Scotland

Wales

Health

Research

 

Boosting public confidence in Legal Regulation

 

The Legal Services Board has published a public consultation paper on regulatory independence. The consultation paper outlines proposals for rules requiring the separation of regulatory work from any representative work within the eight approved regulators designated under statute. It also deals with rules necessary to approve the level of practising fees, charged by the approved regulators and paid by lawyers as a condition of being authorised to practice. The consultation will run until 26 June 2009.

European Ombudsman

 

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has released a new interactive online guide for complainants. The guide is available from the European Ombudsman website, and aims to direct citizens, companies, NGO's and other organisations to the body which is best placed to deal with their complaints or information requests.

P. Nikiforos Diamandouros

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Scotland

 

Appointment of Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

 

Jim Martin has been appointed as the new Scottish Public Services Ombudsman from 1 May 2009. He also became an ex officio member of the Scottish Committee of the AJTC. Jim Martin was the Independent Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland, and has also been the Scottish non-executive chair of Logica and a member of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council.

Children's Hearing system to be overhauled

 

Ministers have proposed a new body, the Scottish Children's Hearing Tribunal, to oversee Scotland's 32 children's panels as part of key proposals to reform the children's hearing system. The proposals follow responses to a national consultation on the future of the system and will form the basis of the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Bill, to be introduced later this year. The new body will bring together the delivery and administration of hearings, and will be responsible for training, recruitment and support of local panel members. The Scottish Children's Reporter Administration will continue to operate and make decisions on those children who should be referred for hearing, and the grounds for referral.

New Legal Aid Rules

 

New changes to Legal Aid rules in Scotland came into force on 7 April 2009, allowing Scots with a disposable income of 25,000 or less to be eligible for civil legal aid. As a result of this increase on the previous income limit of 10,306, it is estimated that around three-quarters of all adults in Scotland will now potentially be eligible for legal aid.

Education Appeal Committee – Clerks Seminar

 

In April the Scottish Committee of the AJTC organised a seminar for the clerks to Education Appeals Committees in Scotland. This was the first event of its kind held for clerks and provided them with the opportunity to meet and exchange views on a range of issues that they are required to address in the performance of their duties.

Tribunal Training Register – Scotland (pdf, 1.2MB)

 

The Scottish Committee has over the past four years compiled a Tribunal Training Register for tribunal systems in Scotland. The 2009 edition has just been completed and is available to view and download on the AJTC website. The register is a medium for sharing information between tribunal systems and the Committee is extremely grateful to those who have contributed to the 2009 edition of the Register.

User Focus in the Scrutiny of Public Services

 

Consumer Focus Scotland is calling on the organisations involved in public service scrutiny to meet the challenge of getting users much more involved. In a recently published paper CFS says the scrutiny bodies overseeing audit, inspection and complaints handling in Scotland's public services remain too distant and disconnected from the people who ultimately use the services.

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Wales

 

National Behaviour Attendance Review Response

 

The Welsh Assembly Government has published its response to the National Behaviour and Attendance Review entitled "Behaving and Attending: Action Plan Responding to the National Behaviour and Attendance Review". The Action Plan seeks to impact on the lives of children and young people by putting in place new processes to improve the approach to promoting positive behaviour and attendance. The WAG has indicated that it will, among other things, move forward with discussions on developing a national independent appeal panel to replace those currently being set up by local authorities, possibly through expanding the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Tribunal's role.

A proposed measure aimed at extending children's entitlements was introduced to the National Assembly for Wales on 27 April 2009. The measure will provide children with rights to SEN appeals and claims of disability discrimination to SENTW. The proposed measure can be viewed here.

New office for the Administrative Appeals Chamber – Wales (pdf, 0.1MB)

 

The Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Upper Tribunal has set up a new office in the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre. Further details about appeals, and applications for permission to appeal that can be lodged in Wales can be found in this letter to stakeholders.

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Health

Launch of Care Quality Commission

 

The new Care Quality Commission (CQC) was launched on 1 April 2009 and is the new regulator for health, mental health and adult social care. NHS organisations will have to register with the CQC for the first time, to show that they are able to protect patients, staff and the public from healthcare associated infection. Primary medical and primary dental care will be brought into regulation by the CQC. To maintain their registration, providers will need to demonstrate an ongoing ability to meet all the registration requirements, which are focused on the safety and quality of care. The new regulator will also have a wider range of powers than its regulatory predecessors including the capacity to issue warning notices and penalty notices and in extreme circumstances to suspend or cancel the registration of organisations who do not meet quality standards.

Simplified Health Complaints System Launched

 

On 1 April 2009 the health complaints system in England was simplified when the Health Servics Ombudsman became the second and final point of contact for complaints. Users who feel that their complaint has not been dealt with satisfactorily by their local NHS body or practice can now complain directly to the Health Service Ombudsman, a change which streamlines the complaints process to improve the way complaints are handled.

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Research

 

Challenging Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Decisions in Scotland

 

The University of Glasgow in conjunction with the University of Stirling (and funded by the Nuffield Foundation) conducted the above report which evaluates the Reconsideration and Onward Appeals procedure.

LSRC Anthology Available

 

The Legal Services Research Centre has released an anthology of papers first presented at the Centre's Seventh International Research Conference of 2008. The papers provide insight into the role of research in the development of legal aid and are linked in their focus on innovation. Order forms and purchasing information can be obtained from the Centre's website.

Research paper – "New Technology and Researchers' Access to Court and Tribunal Information: the need for a European analysis"

 

Philip Leith and Maeve McDonagh have published the above research paper which deals with issues surrounding access to data and the challenges posed by new technology.

 

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Advancing Administrative Justice ADJUST JUNE 2009

 

AJTC - Administrative Justice & Tribunals Council