Watchdog calls for tribunal chiefs

The tribunals watchdog has warned that many of the country's tribunals are losing their independence from government because they lack the leadership of an appointed president.

In a report, the Council on Tribunals argues that most of the UK's 78 tribunals should be led by presidents capable of asserting their independence and fighting for resources.

Council chairman Lord Archer of Sandwell QC told the lawyer that the Mental Health Review Tribunal was an example of a tribunal which needed a national leader.

“It is under-resourced and when this happens things tend to go wrong with the administration,” he said.

Mental Health law specialist Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, of London firm Harbour & Sinclair, said of the Mental Health Review Tribunals: “At the moment the whole thing is run on good will and bits of string.”

Only a handful of tribunals currently have presidents, including the industrial tribunal service and the immigration appeals tribunal.

The report warns: “There are a range of tribunals… which have no central direction of the kind we are advocating, and our real concern is that it is not clear whether, or how far, the principles of independence are being observed or achieved.”