I want to return this morning to the now familiar topic of the overlap between the jurisdiction of the courts and the tribunals in property matters. The work in this area has been spear-headed by the President of the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), Judge Siobhan McGrath and I know that she will be speaking for herself to this conference later in the day. What I want to do, if I may, is to provide something of a high-level overview as the judge with responsibility for the Business and Property Courts.
The problem is well-known and can be shortly stated. Property legislation in recent years has bifurcated the responsibility for determining specific property disputes in numerous areas between the courts and the tribunals, such that in a significant number of cases, the parties have no choice but to engage in both types of proceeding. This increases the costs, causes additional delay, and in some cases, stress and frustration associated with an illogical judicial process. Many of the parties in this area are litigants in person and many are vulnerable.
As Professor Dame Hazel Genn QC explained so cogently in her recent President’s lecture to the Bentham Society, there is an undeniable logic in integrating legal advice into the health service, because many, if not most, health problems are caused or exacerbated by legal or social issues. Foremost amongst those issues are employment and housing problems leading, in whichever order, to loss of a person’s job followed or preceded by loss of that person’s home or at least a bitter dispute with their landlord.