New figures from the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal suggest that the wheels of justice are turning more slowly than ever.
As the Law Society Gazette reports:
Official figures show there were 62,903 outstanding cases in the first-tier tribunal at the end of the third quarter last year, up 20% on the same period in 2015. The age of a case at disposal was 48 weeks between July and September 2016, 15 weeks longer than the same period in 2015.
That’s a staggering number of individuals and families living in legal limbo. It’s nothing short of scandalous.
Long waits at the Tribunal often compound hideous and unconscionable delays by the Home Office. (See for instance this recent deportation case where the inertia lasted 9 years).
There’s also an unhelpful lack of clarity on the criteria that Judges apply to requests to expedite appeal hearings when a witness is very unwell or highly vulnerable.
Despite recent recruitment drives, the number of judges available to hear the cases is declining:
Government figures show that in 2012 there were 347 fee-paid and 132 salaried judges in the first-tier tribunal. In 2016 there were only 242 fee-paid and 77 salaried. In the upper tribunal, a headcount of 40 fee-paid and 42 salaried judges in 2012 declined to 35 fee-paid and 42 salaried last year.
The government’s “do more with less” attitude has prompted predictable results from some of the more demoralised judges:
According to a judicial attitudes survey published this month, a quarter of first-tier tribunal judges thought their case workload over the past 12 months was ‘too high’.