Short version: Yes, they do.
Our post Is the tribunal system corrupt? now has over 100 comments. Most commentators disagree with our conclusion that the tribunal isn’t corrupt — and our wider opinion that, although undoubtedly flawed and imperfect, the system is basically fit for purpose.
We stand by our view. Yes, tribunals and judges do get it wrong sometimes. And, yes, there are some bad bits of law. But that doesn’t mean it’s evil or corrupt. It’s just that not much that human beings do is perfect.
Of course this is easy for us to say. There are some heartbreaking comments on the corruption post and we’re not trying to minimise or discount the emotional impact a bad tribunal experience can have. We’ve both seen too many of our own clients go through the mill for that. Both of us have on occasion become pretty angry about the way our clients – or sometimes parties, respondents or witnesses on the other side – have been treated.
Yet we are both convinced — and bear in mind that between us we’ve seen some thousands of cases — that there is no corruption, no general unreasoning hostility to claimants and, for that matter, no endemic incompetence from judges and members.
We’re far from uncritical fans of the system. But deciding that the tribunal is corrupt is a misdiagnosis. There are many problems — but that is not one of them.
In this context, it’s worth looking at the publicly available statistics on the outcome of tribunal claims. We’ve taken the following from outcomes of all types of claims in the last full year available 2013-14.
Most claims don’t actually reach a final tribunal hearing.
20%, one in five, is settled via ACAS. 53%, just over half, are withdrawn by the claimant. Most of these withdrawals, but not all, represent some form of non-ACAS settlement. So, in somewhere around two thirds of cases, claimants walk away with a negotiated settlement.
Only 3% of claimants obtain default judgment — judgment entered in their favour because the respondent failed to reply to the claim.
Rather more, 8%, have their claims struck out without a hearing. In the vast majority of cases this is because of failing to obey the tribunal’s case-management orders.
Only 14% of cases are determined at a hearing by the tribunal. In 2013-14 the results were split precisely down the middle. Half were won by the Claimant and half by the respondent.
Finally, a matter of housekeeping. The comments on this post, and on ‘Is the tribunal system corrupt?’ will stay open and people are welcome to express their views and discuss their experiences here. We do read every comment. And we won’t moderate comments unless they seem to us raise legal issues, such as libel or threats of – or incitement to – any kind of crime. We probably won’t get involved in the discussion, partly for issues of time, but mostly because we’ve said what we’ve got to say in these posts.
But we’re also going to try to keep discussions of these matters to the posts devoted to them. So, if you want to discuss tribunal corruption, incompetence or malfeasance, this is the place to do it. Off-topic comments on other posts are likely to be deleted from now on.