VINCE CABLE JUSTICEThe umbrella under which we have the privilege of sitting in judgement over our fellow citizens is Her Majesty`s Courts and Tribunals Service. The tribunals service was until a couple of years ago a separate entity but this government like all of its species believes bigger is better and just as we now have Inland Revenue AND Customs we now have Courts AND Tribunals.

I have in the past been a participant in the justice that Employment Tribunals have dispensed on both sides of the employer/employee divide. I have some sympathy with the mindset of Vince Cable which encouraged him to effect the changes in these tribunals and their rules which apply from today. Where I find it disturbing is that one of these changes is the replacement of a three person panel by a single judge. Previously the chairman of a panel would be a lawyer assisted by two lay colleagues with experience as employer or employee representative. In such highly contested matters as employment law it is in my opinion iniquitous that a possibly life changing event be in the hands of a single individual. If the process of appeal is similar to that now existing in the county court where costs can make such appeals a no go area except when the sums involved are well into five figures only the richest or most foolhardy will be able to challenge a decision. In magistrates` courts where District Judges also, in defiance of all that is reasonable and equitable, sit alone in judgement there is at least a no cost opportunity for a non represented defendant to appeal against conviction and/or sentence at the crown court where a judge assisted by two Justices of the Peace will re-hear a case.

Perhaps somebody with the knowledge will be able to inform if it were ever considered that J.P.s now under utilised could have assisted at ETs or is it the case that government policy is to acquire an ever increasing stranglehold over another part of the judicial process? The balance which should exist between the governed and their governors is now a bit more out of kilter.