Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Bonfire of the quangos revisited: impact on the Legal System

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So, the Coalition Government has now published its decisions on what public bodies are to be kept, what are to go. Here I comment on the decisions through the specific lens of the English Legal System.

The two highest profile casualties of the cull are the Youth Justice Board and the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council.

The YJB did have a bit of a reputation for clashing with Government on issues relating to young offenders and how they should be treated in the criminal justice system; presumably  policy will now be taken into the Ministry of Justice. The justification is that this change is wrapped up in a wider review of criminal justice. My view is that the independent voice of the Board will be missed and that Government will still need expert external input into policy making. We shall see.

The Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, created out of the former Council on Tribunals, had a broad remit to keep administrative justice under review. Given the importance of getting the relationship between the citizen and the state right, ensuring that government operates according to principles of good administration is vital. The Council played a key role in ensuring that different agencies communicated with each other. This facilitative role was particularly important and I think it will be missed.

For me, the most intriguing announcement is that  the whole edifice of independent judicial appointments, created by the previous government, is stated to be under consideration. The new process has not been welcomed by many lawyers but has made judicial appointments more transparent – need to watch this space on this one!

Similarly the future of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner is also under review – an announcement is expected in November 2010.

The public bodies review has usefully tidied up a number of tribunals and brought them into the Tribunals Service. The Residential Property Tribunal Service and the Valuation Tribunal Service, which in my view should always have been in the Tribunals Service, are now to be incorporated. A number of other tribunals are still under consideration for inclusion in the Tribunals service, including the ever popular Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal.

The Parole Board has been spared, but its future status and functions are still under review.

The Victims Commissioner is retained, but the Victim’s  Advisory Panel is abolished.

The published list confirms the abolition of a number of bodies which had been announced earlier: these include HM Inspectorate of Court Administration; the Legal Services Commission (not to be confused with the Legal Services Board, which is retained); the Legal Services Ombudsman; and the National Policing Improvement Agency.

On balance, my view is that the legal institutional landscape has changed less than might have been expected. There has actually been some sensible rationalization, particularly in the tribunals world. But I think that the Youth Justice and Administrative Justice worlds have been weakened by the changes.

Full details at http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/latest-news/2010/10/public-body-review-published-55604

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Written by lwtmp

October 16, 2010 at 8:43 am

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