Tribunal reform in Northern Ireland

This project sought to provide a package of reform proposals for tribunals in Northern Ireland. It was prompted by Law Centre (NI)’s perception of disadvantage faced by users of tribunals in Northern Ireland compared with users in Great Britain. 

The project was devised before a gathering in pace of developments in Northern Ireland which included agreement to transfer administrative support for tribunals from their sponsoring Departments to the Northern Ireland Court Service. Devolution of policing and justice oc-curred on 12 April 2010 and the new Department of Justice has acquired as an agency the re-titled Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service. The Hillsborough Castle Agreement specifically authorises the Department of Justice to take forward the ongoing programme of tribunal reform.

The researchers interviewed users of social security appeal tribunals, special educational needs tribunals and industrial/fair employment tribunals, tribunal chairs, policy makers and tribunal judiciary.They found:

  • People appealing didn’t know what to expect from tribunals prior to the hearing. 
  • Good quality specialist advice and representation is very beneficial and should be accessible to all users.
  • One of the biggest strength of tribunals is their independence. 
  • Increased oversight and accountability is needed to maintain standards across tribunals. 

The Law Centre (NI) published its report in June 2010. An executive summary is available to download on this page.