It very much looks like the AIT is about to be scrapped and merged into the new unified Tribunals Service. This is something I posted on way back in September and it now looks very likely to happen.
The new system applies to all tribunal work except immigration and asylum. All of the tax, mental health, employment, social security, land and other tribunals have been combined into one structure. There is a horizontal division between the lower tribunal and the upper tier and there are also vertical divisions by specialisation, called chambers. Judicial reviews can be transferred into and out of the upper tier. Apart, that is, from immigration and asylum judicial reviews, for which there is a statutory bar to transfers. The government is currently proposing lifting that bar, and the issue has been and will be again debated in the House of Lords.
The entrails cast in the air (or settling tea leaves if you prefer) are a recent letter from the Lord Chief Justice complaining about the volume of immigration and asylum cases in the Administrative Court and proposing to shift all fresh claim judicial reviews and other JRs at the judge’s discretion into the new Upper Tier of the general tribunal. That doesn’t seem likely if immigration and asylum cases have not already been brought into it. The Government is very keen to lift the statutory bar. This is presumably for a reason: so that immigration and asylum JRs can indeed be transferred into the tribunal. An AIT stakeholder meeting was recently postponed pending an announcement on the future of the AIT.
That’s good enough for me and I am now certain that the AIT is on the way out.
The current immigration appeal system is a dog’s dinner, and transferring it into the new tribunal system would surely be neater. There would probably be new immigration chambers set up in the lower and upper bits, but one might hope that there could be something of a culture change if immigration ‘judges’ came into regular contact with other tribunal adjudicators and perhaps even sat on non immigration cases. There has also been an assurance that procedure rules for immigration and asylum cases would be made in the same way as other procedure rules, thereby perhaps ending the privileged access the Home Office has exploited in previous years.
Lots of new procedures and rules to learn all over again, the whole caboodle being turned upside down again – but perhaps these changes will stick this time. Good or bad, though, it now looks inevitable.