The government is consulting on proposed changes to the way appeals from the Upper Tribunal work, including narrowing the grounds upon which a ‘second appeal’ to the Court of Appeal can be made, and removing the possibility of appellate review of judicial review applications which are deemed to be ‘totally without merit’.

The primary function of the judiciary is to interpret and apply the law. The right to appeal is therefore of paramount importance as it provides a way for incorrect understandings of the law to be identified, challenged and corrected. Whilst tribunal judges are of course highly qualified and extremely capable, mistakes and oversights are sometimes made. All decision-makers are liable to fall into error. As the Supreme Court put it in Cart: “No system of decision-making is perfect or infallible. There is always the possibility that a judge at any level will get it wrong. Clearly there should always be the possibility that another judge can look at the case and check for error. That second judge should always be someone with more experience or expertise than the judge who first heard the case”.

Because appeals help to ensure the proper and just application of the law, it is therefore vital that however our legal system is to be organised, the right to appeal erroneous decisions remains practical and effective. Appeals ensure access to justice, which is an essential component of the rule of law and a core part of our legal system. Reform which risks undermining this fundamental right should not be pursued.

PLP disagrees with both major options proposed in the consultation. Firstly, we consider changes of this kind to be unnecessary as we do not think that the government has put forward a convincing argument for reform, and that there is no need to legislate in this area at this time. Secondly, we consider the proposals to be unfair, in that they carry a significant risk of leading to justice being denied for many. Thirdly, we consider that, if enacted, the proposals will likely be ineffective in any case. In addition, we have serious concerns about the data relied upon in the consultation document, and consider that the proposed changes may have a detrimental impact upon protected groups and families.

You can read our consultation submission in full here.