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12.1.1 Tribunals and Ombudsman - Introduction

Welcome to the twelfth topic in this module guide – Tribunals and Ombudsman! A tribunal is an institution or a person who has the authority to adjudicate on, judge, or determine disputes or claims. Tribunals have their own processes and rules and are usually fairly informal, in comparison to the courts. The reason why tribunals are of such importance in the current legal system is because they can provide specialist expertise of certain areas of public decision making in areas where ordinary courts might not have this same knowledge.

Tribunals have been established in the following areas: social security, education, tax, health, pensions, immigration and asylum, employment, transport and traffic, finance and criminal injuries compensation. Tribunals have been created in a somewhat haphazard fashion with little regard for a ‘system’; as such, the government has endeavoured to create a structure retrospectively by creating the Tribunal Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.

An ombudsman is an independent and impartial officer whose responsibility is to investigate actions of public authorities. Ombudsmen ordinarily intervene to investigate matters of maladministration and seek redress for individuals who have been treated badly or unfairly. In England, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, the Health Services Ombudsmen, the Local Government Ombudsmen and the Independent Housing Ombudsmen tackle complaints under their areas of public responsibility.

Below are some goals and objectives for you to refer to after learning this section.

Goals for this section:

  • To understand the distinction between tribunals and judicial review.
  • To be able to identify under what circumstances an ombudsman will investigate a particular matter.

Objectives for this section:

  • To be able to understand how the current system of tribunals operates.
  • To be able to appreciate the role that ombudsmen play in the political process.
  • To be able to comprehend what a public inquiry is and why and how the process is instigated.

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