Merger with Courts Service 'could put people off using charity tribunal'

Formal court proceedings might intimidate local community activists, warn lawyers

Tribunals Service
Tribunals Service

Lawyers are concerned that a government plan to merge the Tribunals Service with HM Courts Service next year might deter people from using the charity tribunal.

Under Ministry of Justice plans announced earlier this month, the two services will share premises, staff and administration. The merger has raised fears that the charity tribunal will lose its informality.

Tom Murdoch, a solicitor at the law firm Stone King, said that many users of the charity tribunal were local community activists who might feel intimidated by formal court proceedings.

"The tribunals service makes its users feel at ease," he said. "They don't have to stand up and they don't address each other with court terminology. It feels more like a cosy drawing room than a cold courtroom."

Nicola Evans, a senior associate at the solicitors firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said she hoped the tribunal's "different approach" would be taken into account when the two services were merged. "It is important to make sure that tribunal business is carried out in a different way from other court business," she said.

A Tribunals Service spokesman said: "The aim is to provide a streamlined administrative service for courts and tribunals that maximises the use of our staff and buildings and delivers the best service to our customers."

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