Sometimes, after the tribunal hearing, you learn of something that, if you’d know about it at the time, you would have wanted to present to the tribunal. The fresh evidence might be a document, an expert’s report or a new witness.
If you won without the evidence, this won’t matter. But if you lost all or part of your case, you are likely to want to do something to change the judgment.
To use new evidence to challenge a tribunal decision, you will need to show that it satisfies the test set out in Ladd v Marshall. This is that:
- The new evidence could not have been obtained with reasonable diligence for use at the original hearing,
- The new evidence would probably have an important influence on the result of the case, and
- The new evidence must be apparently credible, though it need not be incontrovertible.
This is not an easy test to meet. The tribunal system is, for obvious and sensible reasons, reluctant to reopen cases that it has already dealt with. Many applications fail, either because the tribunal believes that if reasonable steps had been taken the evidence would have been available, or they simply do not think it is significant enough to justify reconsidering the case.
But if you decide that the new evidence does pass the test, what are the mechanics of getting it considered – do you appeal, or ask for a review?
In the recent case of Adegbuji v Meteor Parking Ltd, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has said that the appropriate course is to apply for review, and that the EAT may not have the jurisdiction to deal with new evidence appeals.
These are two slightly different points. The President of the EAT, Underhill J, says review is more sensible than appeal, because the tribunal is best placed to decide how significant new evidence is and whether it is credible. So parties should apply for a review, and any appeal based on the same point, will normally be stayed until the review is completed.
This reasoning is hard to argue with, and since the President is in charge of the EAT, his approach is likely to be followed. In general, therefore, new evidence challenges should be made by review, rather than appeal.
There is probably no advantage, in these circumstances in applying for both a review and an appeal. In theory, this might give you two attempts at the issue, once on review, and then again on appeal if the review is rejected. But in practice, the EAT is unlikely hear an appeal when the same issues have already been dealt with on review. They would only do so if the tribunal had made an error of law during the review – but in that case the review decision itself can be appealed, so you can safely wait until you have that decision before deciding whether or not to appeal.
But there could be circumstances in which you’d want to appeal instead. For example, if you are appealing on a number of other grounds as well, it may seem more sensible to appeal, and have the whole case dealt with by the EAT – rather than applying for an appeal and a review. Generally I suspect that this approach is unlikely to find favour with the EAT, but it might work in the right case.
But the second point is that the President suggests that the EAT may not be able to deal with new evidence cases at all. The EAT’s powers to deal with appeals is set out at s21 of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996. This says that ‘An appeal lies to the Appeal Tribunal on any question of law arising from any decision of … an employment tribunal’. In Adegbuji, the President expresses doubt that new evidence can amount to a ‘question of law.’ If he’s right, then the EAT cannot deal with such points at all.
Adegbuji does not resolve this point, so at the moment there is no binding authority to prevent you arguing that ‘a question of law’ can cover an appeal on the basis of new evidence and the EAT has jurisdiction. There are a few problems with this: how can new evidence have anything to do with questions of law and how can the tribunal err in law, if it has decided the case correctly on the information available to it? Nonetheless, the issue is not clear cut and arguments could certainly be made the other way.
The key point is that it would be most unwise to rely solely on an appeal. If the EAT lacks jurisdiction, your appeal would be dismissed. By the time that this had happened the time-limit for review would have long passed. While new evidence is often a good reason for extending time – after all, if the evidence is genuinely new, how could you have applied earlier? – this justification falls away once you have the evidence. If you could apply to appeal, the tribunal may say, why could you not apply for a review?
The safest thing to do, therefore, is to apply for a review and an appeal, but ask for the review to be stayed pending the outcome of the appeal. Do not be surprised, however, if the tribunal and EAT prefer for the review to be dealt with first, regardless of your wishes.