12.1.2 Tribunals and Ombudsman Lecture

Administrative justice defines the various institutions and procedures that are located within the wide area between government departments and courts of law.

A. Tribunals

Tribunals are statutory bodies which hear and make decisions on appeals by members of the public against first instance decisions made by government bodies. A tribunal can then determine the appeal of the official decision and substitute its own decision for the initial decision-maker.

The System of Tribunals

There currently exist a diverse array of tribunals that operated in different areas. Most tribunals are required to adjudicate disputes between state actors and a private individual or company. There are other tribunals, which adjudicated disputes between two sets of private individuals.

Tribunals and Judicial Review

The distinction between judicial review and the tribunal system is an important one; during the process of judicial review the court can only make a determination on the lawfulness of a government decision, whereas tribunals are able to carry out a merits appeal.

The Reorganisation of Tribunals

A major review of tribunals was conducted in 2001. The Leggatt review found a total of 70 different tribunals in England and Wales. The report observed that the tribunal system in England and Wales had been established in a haphazard fashion and that there was a lack of systematic integration of its many elements.

The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (TCEA) aimed to implement the reforms that had been proposed within the Leggatt review.

B. Public Inquiries

The public inquiry is an administrative process which became popular during the 20th century as government departments obtained powers to intervene in the matters of local authorities.

Rules of Procedure for Public Inquiries

The Lord Chancellor has the powers under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992, section 9 (amended) to create rules which regulate the procedure for statutory inquiries.

The Changing use of Public Inquires

The role of inquiries has diminished in recent years. Increased involvement of the legal profession in inquiries had led to delays in the decision-making process.

The Inquiries Act 2005

The Inquiries Act 2005 deals with legal provision for the investigation of national disaster or major scandal.

C. Ombudsmen

There are public and private sector ombudsmen, this section is concerned with the former. The system of Ombudsmen in England is fragmented with various Ombudsmen dealing with complaints, which related to various areas of public responsibility.

The Role of Public Sector Ombudsmen

The principle role of ombudsmen is to achieve redress for individuals who have experienced harm due to maladministration.

Ombudsmen and the Political Process

The relationship between the Ombudsman and Parliament has been developed in a number of ways to the functions which it now establishes.

Investigations by Ombudsmen

There are specific procedures that must be followed to consider whether an Ombudsman will investigate a particular matter. The Parliamentary Ombudsman is authorised to investigate public bodies, which are listed under schedule 2 Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.

After considering whether maladministration has occurred the ombudsman must go on to consider whether this maladministration has led to an injustice towards the complainant.


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