Latest News

  • FRU response to MoJ consultation highlights some concerns
    Thu, 04/05/2018 - 15:09

    FRU has made a response to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) consultation paper “Fit for the future: Transforming the court and tribunal estate”. Whilst FRU welcomes some elements of the plans, including ‘pop up’ hearing centres using community facilities, we expressed some concerns about the overall approach.

    The consultation addresses MoJ’s plans for its future requirement for physical court and tribunal venues.

    Our concerns include:

    • The MoJ aims to reduce the number of hearing centres because in future more people will take part in their case online or by video. However the impact on justice from moving away from face to face hearings is currently unknown and the research is limited. Although online or virtual hearings might be more attractive to many court users, they may get a worse outcome than they would have done from a face to face hearing. Reducing the court estate before the impact on justice is known is a gamble that would be hard to reverse.
    • The impact analyses on different groups within society is currently inadequate. For example the MoJ assumes that for most people being involved in legal proceedings is a rare event so longer travel times to a hearing centre are justified. However different groups in society are more likely to be involved in legal proceedings due to their circumstances, for example someone who is dismissed from their employment may have an Employment Tribunal claim and debt or housing issues and may be refused entitlement to a social security benefit. Some groups may be disproportionately affected by these plans and FRU does not believe that these impacts have been adequately identified or addressed.
    • FRU disagrees with proposals to move away from using a target of a given number of hours travel time to a different hearing centre to judge whether a court closure is reasonable. We believe that a target is needed together with real-world modelling of travel times and availability by public transport linked to realistic analysis of case listing practices.
    • We caution against the use of data that suggests that some court and tribunal buildings are under-used. They may be under-used due to a lack of judicial sitting time or other resources, so there may be empty court rooms but lengthy waiting times for cases to be heard. Capacity modelling should ensure that the interests of justice are served by enabling prompt case listing.
    • FRU is concerned that the amount of support that many users will require to access digital services is still being under-estimated.

    We await MoJ’s response to the consultation with interest.

  • Senior Judge highlights FRU’s value
    Thu, 03/29/2018 - 13:15

    Lord Justice Ryder, the Senior President of Tribunals, has highlighted FRU’s longstanding contribution to supporting justice.

    In a recent speech about assisting access to justice, Sir Ernest Ryder pointed to the efforts of the legal profession to demonstrate its civic engagement. He identified FRU as an exemplar of this, and urged the legal profession, universities and legal regulators to collaborate to show leadership in civic engagement with the justice system.
    David Abbott, FRU Chief Executive said “Lord Justice Ryder has statutory responsibility to ensure that the Tribunals are accessible. FRU represents clients in 2 of the largest tribunals; the Social Entitlement chamber and the Employment Tribunal. FRU welcomes LJ Ryder’s endorsement of our work and we support greater collaboration between a wide-range of bodies to extend access to justice.”

    The full text of the speech can be read here: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/speech-ryder-spt-keele-uni-march2018.pdf

  • Welcome to Andrew Comiskey
    Wed, 03/28/2018 - 09:38

    We are pleased to welcome Andrew Comiskey from Linklaters to FRU this week.

     

    Andrew is the latest trainee solicitor to join FRU on a placement from Linklaters LLP, which is a long-standing supporter of FRU. Andrew will be with FRU for the next 6-months after which he will have finished his 4 ‘seats’ or placements. Andrew will be supporting the general work of the office and taking on FRU cases to develop his advocacy skills.

  • Reported Upper Tribunal decision on beneficial interest and cultural issues when establishing credibility of claimants
    Wed, 03/21/2018 - 15:45

    A new reported decision of the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) has been published. The decision addresses the treatment of capital for means tested benefits and in particular establishing whether a ‘Quistclose’ Trust exists. It also offers guidance on taking account of the cultural context of claimants when a tribunal makes decisions on issues of credibility.

    In the reported decision the Upper Tribunal Judge recognises the quality of the submissions made by FRU assistant legal officer Josh Yetman, describing them as ‘well-crafted’. The decision goes on to state that ‘Given the undoubted legal and evidential complexities of this case, I hope that the Free Representation Unit will be able to continue to provide its invaluable help to the Appellant, both by way of preparation for, and representation at, the First-tier Tribunal rehearing.’

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5aa6311040f0b66b5fb4b348/CIS_0798_2017-00.pdf

  • FRU welcomes Hong Kong migrant women charity visit
    Wed, 03/21/2018 - 15:41

    FRU was pleased to welcome representatives of a Hong Kong based humanitarian charity who were researching best practice in pro bono work.

    On 19 March FRU was delighted to host a visit by 2 representatives from the PathFinders NGO from Hong Kong. PathFinders provides humanitarian support, social and welfare services, access to healthcare, education and legal support. PathFinders serves pregnant, migrant women in distress and their Hong Kong-born children. Most of the women are current or former foreign domestic workers. Despite legal

    protections, the women are often dismissed from work unlawfully when pregnant.

    Kay McArdle, CEO and Jenny McAlpine, Head of Special Projects from PathFinders met with FRU Chief Executive David Abbott to learn more about how FRU works. Kay and Jenny were working on a fellowship to learn from global best-in-class access to justice models in London, Melbourne, New York, Singapore and Sydney.

    After the visit David said “we were pleased to learn that representatives from a charity on the other side of the world knew of FRU’s excellent work. Welcoming Kay and Jenny to our office gave us an excellent opportunity to swap experience and support access to justice”.