A tribunal is generally any individual or organisation/institution with the power to adjudicate on, judge, or determine dispute/claim whether it has a tribunal title or not (Slapper & Kelly 2009). For instance, an advocate appearing before a justice court being presided over by a single judge could describe the judge as 'their tribunal'. A number of governmental organs that are classified as tribunals are also described as 'tribunals' to put emphasise on the fact that such organs are not courts of ordinary jurisdiction. Moreover, private judicial organs may be considered as 'styled tribunals'. The term 'tribunal' is not conclusive of the functions of a body (Slapper & Kelly 2009, p. 398).
There are various types of tribunals that can be formed in the society. These include employment, military, environmental, medical tribunals and others. Employment tribunals are non-depended public organs in most nations especially Scotland, Wales, and England which have legislative jurisdiction to preside over many types of disputes between employees and their employers (Edge 2004, p. 60). The most common disputes are related with employment discrimination, unfair dismissal, and redundancy payments (Edge 2004, p. 60). In the United Kingdom, employment tribunals are part of the tribunal structure administered by the Tribunal Service and supervised and regulated by the Tribunals Council and Administrative Justice.
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For the fact that this kind of tribunal offers the legislative suitable for jurisdiction of such cases, all relevant evidence is brought under oath and the conclusions of the panel are legally presented. This implies that the decisions of the tribunal have to be obeyed keeping in mind that people open themselves around perjury accusations once they give false information and also withhold important information. Being a less formal court house, the tribunal functions can help in reinstating employers, compensating successful claimants, and issuing recommendations to members of staff (Edge 2004, p. 66).
In reference to Whiting (1764, p. 25), a military tribunal is a type of military court devised to try enemy forces members during times of war, operating outside the range of conventional civil and criminal proceedings. The judge panel comprises of military officers and fulfil the juror's role. Moreover, military tribunals are quite different from courts-martial. In the same line of thought, military tribunals are inquisitorial systems based on charges brought forward by military authorities, prosecuted by military authorities, judged by military officers, and ruled by military officers against adversarial force members. For instance, the United States has used military commissions or tribunals instead of court-martials within the justice system of the military in times of declared rebellion or war (p. 25).
On the other hand, environmental tribunals comprise of trial prosecutor and attorneys, and they are established to handle different kinds of violations against environmental laws. Both measures have contributed considerably to achieving results that are in proportion to the law and fair (proportionate, consistent, and correct) in the most serious and complex environmental cases that are presided at the state level throughout a diverse and large nation. To help state judges who are generalists taking into consideration all types of cases, most national governments have been forced to develop specialised trial units of attorneys who are experts in offenses that are environmental related, both civil and criminal. Unquestionably, cases in environmental tribunals are often handled by judges and at other times by juries (Paterson 2009, p. 392).
Along the lines of Breen et al. (2010), the other major type of tribunal is the medical tribunal which listens to pleas from claimants who are not contended with the Medical Board decisions regarding their claim for pension (p. 134). These pension claims range from Basic Invalidity Pension given to person's between the age of 15 years and 59 years, Additional Basic Invalid's Pension or Carer's Allowance Serious disablement, a raise in Basic Retirement Pension given to people aged 60 years and above, to Disablement Pension given to persons at the age of 15 and over following injuries encountered at work (p. 134). Nevertheless, the medical practitioners disciplinary tribunal hears and rules out disciplinary proceedings brought against various medical practitioners.
Other types of tribunals include Asylum and Immigration tribunals, tax and finance tribunal, lands tribunal, mental health review tribunal, transport tribunal, disability and special education tribunals, and gender recognition tribunals. Each and every one of these tribunals deals with a certain part of the law. Tribunals are there to give people an independent mechanism that they can use to resolve any issues they may have or to appeal against a previous decision that affects their lives (Breen et al. 2010, p. 138).
In consistent with The Sixth Form Law (2008) the tribunal system has various advantages that make it more suitable as compared to the court system. As at presented constituted, ordinary courts cannot cope with the vast number of cases that are currently being dealt with by various tribunals and any attempt to handle these cases would result to inordinate delays. Therefore, tribunals help in preventing delays and their proceedings last for a short time. Consequently, the cost of handling cases in tribunals is much less as compared to ordinary courts proceedings. More to this point, tribunals are free from technicalities due to the simplified procedure and rules of evidence, hence, reducing legal costs and providing people with an opportunity to represent themselves. Undebatably, tribunals are more often than not composed of experts in the cases which they deal with and therefore are more effective and reliable. Furthermore, specialism saves time thus reducing costs.
Tribunals are generally local by nature, and can thus acquaint themselves with ordinary conditions and accomplish inspections of sites and property especially in the Land Tribunal case where this would be helpful in decision making. In addition, tribunals promote a social improvement policy and the proficient conduct of public administration particularly in the case of administrative tribunals. Besides, tribunals are not bound firmly by precedent like the ordinary courts although they intend to secure consistency in their decisions. Additionally, tribunals eliminate ministerial (political) responsibility for delicate decisions which is favourable for the minister who may desire to avoid undesired publicity and menial work of the tribunal. Besides, ministers are not viewed as having independence and so their decisions are often tainted by their politics. Basically, tribunals are cheap, accessible and more flexible and they reduce the judiciary and government department's workload (UK Legal Service 2006).
However, the tribunal system has a number of disadvantages that make it less preferable as compared to the ordinary court system. The tribunal system lacks publicity since hearings take place in private and there are no explanations or reasons given for the decisions made. Taking into consideration that the rules of evidence are unobserved, there follows poor quality of facts investigation. Well, there exists the dangerous possibility that very important judicial functions may be handled by unqualified persons. With the exception of the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Lands Tribunal, legislative aid is unavailable for individuals appearing before the tribunals, and therefore they may be improperly represented (The Sixth Form Law 2008). This is applicable particularly in organs such as the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Studies have shown that the principles of fairness, impartiality, and openness had not always been manifested although generally the tribunal system functioned well.
In proportion to the UK Legal Service (2006), the tribunal system is important in modern society, but they ought to be obviously good reasons for developing a tribunal and in whichever case ultimate control ought to be practiced by the ordinary courts. In addition, proceedings in tribunals should be given publicity and the necessary steps should be taken to make sure that people know their rights and are able to properly present their cases. In fact, tribunals must be free from external influences particularly government influence. The unfair imbalance between represented and unrepresented persons needs to be eliminated. This is because it is difficult and unfair for people who are unrepresented and unable to get legal aid to rise against a rich person since richer parties are given the opportunity to make use of skilled representation and consequently become more likely to win. Although the costs are kept down, the lack of legal aid and the no-cost rule penalise poor plaintiffs. Lastly, it may be difficult for persons who visit tribunals to represent themselves as a result of the natural complicatedness in presenting a case in whichever environment.
Slapper & Kelly (2009, p. 405) reiterates that Tribunals consist of the Chairman, Deputy Chairs who are appointed by the Attorney-General and other less than twelve specialists who are experts in the area of the tribunal. These people hear appeals from claimants and give rulings in relation to the cases. However, the components of a tribunal vary from one tribunal to another. At the same time, each tribunal is run uniquely since they are developed to handle cases in various departments of the government. For instance, the cases presented in a medical tribunal should be lodged within a period of one month from the time when claim has been disqualified by the National Pensions Officer. When summoned before the Medical Tribunal, complainants are requested to present medical certificates, prescriptions given, and other relevant documents that they can use to support their cases.
In case the appeals are allowed, the plaintiffs are informed accordingly and compensation benefits are carried out by the Industrial Injury Branch or Benefits Branch, as applicable. Alternatively, if an appeal is rejected, the appellant can visit the nearest Social Security Office with all appropriate documents to make a new claim for Basic Invalidity Pension, An Additional Basic Invalid's Pension and A raise in Basic Retirement Pension 6 months after the disqualification of the last claim. Also, if the appellant is unable to personally visit the nearest local Social Security Office, he/she may send a representative (Slapper & Kelly 2009, p. 405).
Generally, tribunals are constituted and operated in accordance with the legislative rules issued by the secretary of state. These rules referred to as tribunal rules of procedure set out the main procedures and objectives of the tribunal, and issues such as time limits for making allegations and handling matters related to review requests. Apparently, a person making an allegation has to physically present a claim form that is valid, on an approved form to the tribunal office within the suitable time limit. If a claim form is late, then, the tribunal may not be allowed to hear it and there is a high possibility of the claim being disqualified on that basis, without considering the advantages, at a pre-hearing review (Swift & Chapman 2007, p. 66).
According to Swift & Chapman (2007, p. 66), a person defending a claim must present a response (prescribed) form to the tribunal handling the claim within a period of 28 days after receiving a claim form from the tribunal. In case he/she fails to present the form, then it will be disqualified from participating in proceedings, which may go on undefended. Actually, the tribunal is expected to disallow a claim or response form if it's not offered on a prescribed form. What's more, certain information must be made available on the form for it to be accepted and valid. The tribunal rules of procedure allow for various types of hearing. These include a case management discussion, a pre-hearing review, a full hearing, and a review hearing. The case management discussion is used to elucidate matters and determine the direction of the case while a pre-hearing review determines the right of an individual to defend proceedings. Lastly, a full hearing determines remedy or/and liability whereas a review hearing is meant to re-consider a judgement (p. 68).