The senior president of tribunals has pledged to achieve ‘greater cohesion and harmony’ within the judiciary, arguing that courts judges and tribunals judges feel ‘separate and disunited’.
In an annual report on the state of tribunals, Sir Keith Lindblom said the cross-deployment of judges between different jurisdictions in the courts and tribunals is key to changing judicial culture.
‘I am delighted that since the publication of the last annual report the ‘flexible deployment and assignment guidance’ has been published,’ he said. ‘This provides the structure for greater cross-deployment, both within the tribunals system and outside it. Encouraging tribunal judges to sit in the courts, and courts judges in the tribunals, will engender a greater understanding of each other’s roles and jurisdictions.’
In October 2020, legislation was also amended to allow other judges to be deployed into the employment tribunals for the first time. ‘I am sure that assigning more judges to this jurisdiction will prove to be a great success, both for the judges involved and for the tribunal itself,’ Lindblom said.
In the same report, the president of employment tribunals described a difficult year, in which users complained of ‘excessive waiting times, unserved claims, unanswered telephone calls and unanswered correspondence’.
Virtual hearings also loomed large in the report, with the Cloud Video Platform described as ‘the greatest ally’ by some tribunals. Sir Lindblom said: ‘Video hearings will no doubt perform a larger role in the tribunals than they did before the pandemic. This, in my view, ought to be welcomed.
‘However, I am also clear in my opinion that face-to-face hearings will never, and should never, be completely replaced by remote methods. There are always going to be cases – indeed, many cases – in which a face-to-face hearing is clearly the best form of hearing, and for several reasons. Judges are responsible for, and will make, the decision, taking into account the interests of justice and the particular circumstances of each case.’