UPDATE: It would seem that Mark Ockelton has been sitting in the Administrative Court as a deputy high court judge and has not been promoted to the High Court bench.
A while ago I posted some gossip I had heard at the end of the summer: that Mark Ockelton, a deputy president of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, had been appointed a high court judge. The penny has finally dropped as to why.
It is a legal requirement that the president of the tribunal be a high court judge. Mr Justice Henry Hodge (right – he looks friendlier than this in real life!), the current president, is known to be ill, very sadly, and his wife stepped down from her ministerial job to spend time with him at the last reshuffle. It suddenly very much looks as if Ockelton will be the next president, if Hodge J has to stand down.
While Mark Ockelton is clearly a clever man and can be a pleasure to appear before, there are undoubtedly criticisms to be made of him. The most important, though, given this development, is that he would likely reinforce rather than resolve the problems that many would perceive in the tribunal: incivility, the institutional adoption and then defence of legal positions as if the tribunal was a party to proceedings, the dysfunctional approach to expert evidence and the astoundingly high level of successful appeal of tribunal decisions to the higher courts.
Hopefully Henry Hodge will be fighting fit soon anyway, and I certainly wish him well. Tall, jovial and genial, he is a decent man and as one of the founders of Hodge, Jones and Allen has done good for many individuals over the years.
Either way, the tribunal looks like it will soon be abolished and integrated into the two-tier Tribunals Service, with Carnwath LJ at its head.