The Welsh Government has announced its plans to reform the justice system in Wales by introducing a White Paper in the coming months. The White Paper will lay out proposals to create a modern, independent Welsh tribunal service, which will form the cornerstone of a future justice system in Wales.
The move follows the recent publication of the Welsh Government’s policy strategy document ‘Delivering Justice for Wales’, which set out a series of measures to improve coherence in the system and improve people’s access to justice.
Among these measures is the creation of a unified first-tier Tribunal for Wales as part of a structurally independent tribunal service, and the creation of an Appeals Tribunal for Wales.
The Delivering Justice for Wales strategy document also outlined plans to transfer appeals against school exclusions to the new first-tier Tribunal, expand the role of the President of Welsh Tribunals, explore the most effective production and publication of Welsh tribunals data, and prepare for the impact of Mental Health Act reforms on the caseload of the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Wales.
It also stressed the importance of engaging with stakeholders to take forward the recommendations of the Commission on Justice in Wales to co-ordinate and rationalise civil and administrative dispute resolution, and to discuss with the UK Government the Thomas Commission recommendations relating to coroners’ services.
While the UK government still largely holds powers over the justice system in Wales, the country has a number of devolved tribunals, each operating under its own legislation. Some of these are grouped under the supervision of the President of Welsh Tribunals, while others operate outside of that grouping.
The Welsh Government’s planned reforms will establish an appellate court (court of appeal) in Wales for the first time, giving the nation a simple, modern, and fair tribunal structure.
Discussing the proposed changes, the Counsel General emphasised that judicial independence would remain the guiding principle for the way in which judicial institutions are supported in Wales. The primary objective of the proposed reform is to bring these tribunals together, improve people’s access to justice, and create a coherent and high-performing justice system for Wales. The Counsel General also expressed hope for further devolution of the justice system in Wales.
The announcement of the tribunal reforms comes as the Senedd debates the President of Welsh Tribunals Annual Report. These reforms are an example of how the Welsh Government can use the levers at its disposal to pursue a whole-system, person-centred approach to justice.
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