Sunday 28 March 2010

Combined Court and Tribunal Service

This is an interesting development.  All you need to know is that it was announced in the Budget by the Chancellor of the Exchequer - for all Jack Straw's fine sentiments in his MoJ statement - there is only one reason for this - saving money.  Combined Court & Tribunal services will be a nightmare and resources will be tighter than ever.  Magistrates, Circuit Judges, Crown Courts, Employment Tribunals, County Courts and Social Security Appeal Tribunals (now the First Tier Tribunal) together with tax tribunals, care tribunals, school tribunals and the rest will all share staff, court/hearing rooms and the same budget.

I like this extract from Jack's statement:

The new structure will preserve the unique and distinctive features of both systems while taking advantage of the benefits to users, judges and staff from closer working. We will ensure that the statutory responsibilities of both the Lord Chief Justice for the courts and the Senior President of Tribunals for the tribunals are respected and preserved. There are also a number of important differences between the two organisations which will need to be given careful consideration in planning for the new organisation. These include the different territorial coverage of HMCS and the Tribunals Service, their different governance arrangements and judicial structures and the different regional and jurisdictional structures currently in place.

Indeed - so different in fact that Tribunals and Courts needed and had separate administrative services - until of course we ran out of tax payers' money and they were forced together.  

I predict divorce within 5 years.  

In the meantime it is only justice that will suffer...............

1 comment:

  1. This is not just about saving money though that is a large element. It is also about controlling the levers of power.

    The Legal Services Commission is to become an "executive agency" of the Ministry of Justice and will therefore cease to be independent of government. Ministers will call all the shots about legal aid.

    Her Majesty's Court Service (HMCS) is already under massive financial pressure but, allied to the merger of HMCS and the Tribunals Service, is the abolition of the remaining 19 Courts Boards thereby removing the last vestiges of local control and placing everything under the control of Ministers.

    We are seeing an ever expanding role for the Secretary of State for Justice at the expense of a reduction in local control and independence. This should come as no surprise given that the Minister is Jack Straw. He is known to favour "centralisation". The recent economic crisis has played beautifully into his hands.

    Nowhere is all this more exemplified than the Magistrates' Courts which, until the Courts Act 2003, were administered by Magistrates' Courts Committees which, though not without blemish, were fiercely independent and proud of their local role. These courts are now administered by a remote bureaucracy which is unresponsive to the needs of the magistrates and to justice generally. The result is a very demoralised system.