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The Department of Trade and Industry's decision to appoint six additional part-time judges to the Employ-ment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) will not overcome the court's problems of delay and backlog, say employment experts
Often only five of the tribunal's six courts can operate simultaneously due to a shortage of full-time judges, causing an increase in the already substantial backlog of cases. Lord Lester QC, on behalf of employment lawyers, has lobbied Parliament twice to increase the judges at the court. But complaints have been levelled at the recent round of appointments because they are all part-time posts, which will only take around six weeks out of their other judicial and independent practice functions. Stephen Levinson, head of UK employment at KLegal, said: "What's really needed is greater availability of full-time judges." Two years ago, he said, six recorders were nominated by the Lord Chancellor, but backlog and delay continued. Pauline Bonleavy, registrar of the EAT, said the average processing time of a case is 12 months, but she could not provide details of the backlog. "It's impossible to tell about the backlog, because how do you define a backlog? It would also be an impossible administrative task [to collate the backlog figures]." The Lord Chancellor is aware of the difficulties, she added. Last Monday, Jeremy McMullen QC was appointed as the second full-time circuit judge and a judge has been seconded. There are also several High Court judges whose time equates to one full-time judge. Sir Michael Burton QC has recently been appointed as the new EAT president.