Recommendations to strengthen Wales’ Administrative Justice System

A report raising awareness and highlighting challenges and opportunities for Wales’ administrative justice system has been launched today (17 November).

Administrative justice deals with the relationship between the individual and the state and extends from principles of good decision-making for public bodies, to how people complain to those bodies, as well as to external redress mechanisms such as courts and tribunals and Ombudsmen and Commissioners with responsibilities in different areas of public life.

The recommendations by Dr Sarah Nason of Bangor University’s Law School, will enable  consideration of the best way forward to strengthen people’s ability to take efficient and proportionate action when they feel that they have not received a proper service or response from a range of public bodies in Wales.

Devolved powers have given the Welsh Government responsibilities in several key areas such as housing, education, health and planning. In response, the Welsh Government has created various redress mechanisms, such as new tribunals, a Welsh Language Commissioner and Commissioners for Children and Older People, to ensure that relevant laws are properly enforced and that maladministration is addressed.

Wales is in a position to innovate and reform its administrative justice system from the ground up, ensuring that it embodies the highest commitment to standards of public decision-making, social justice and human rights.

Historically, the Welsh population lodges fewer administrative justice claims through the various responsible bodies than does its counterparts in other UK jurisdictions. The recommendations in this report suggest increasing awareness of the ways in which complaints can be made as well as strengthening the powers and roles of those responsible for upholding administrative law.

Report author, Dr Sarah Nason said:

“Conducting this research has given me a valuable opportunity to begin to understand the problems that citizens in Wales face when seeking redress when services fail to meet the standards they expect. It has allowed me to begin to propose innovative reforms as to how we can design our redress mechanisms in Wales so they work better for citizens and contribute to better decision-making by service providers, and ultimately the everyday quality of life of people in Wales, especially those facing serious challenges in relation to issues such as housing, health and special educational needs. It has also helped me to see that these issues are not confined to Wales, and that in the devolution context Wales has a special opportunity to develop an innovative administrative justice system that could be used as a model to be followed by other smaller legal jurisdictions across the world”. 

Professor Sir Adrian Webb, Chair of the Committee for Administrative Justice and Tribunals Wales, said:

“The Committee commissioned Bangor Law School to conduct this research to support us in our work as a guardian of the public interest with regard to administrative justice in Wales. Dr Nason has produced an extremely valuable research report which will help inform the ongoing development of a system which, although not well understood, has a significant impact on the lives of the citizens of Wales.”

Welcoming the Administrative Justice Report, Professor Dermot Cahill, Head of Bangor Law School observed:

"This is an extremely important piece of research conducted here at Bangor Law School, and is a further example of Bangor Law School's contribution to producing ground-breaking research that proposes imaginative solutions to real world problems".  

"Not only has Dr Nason's research proposed a sound principled-based approach to informing what values a sound administrative justice system should possess, it also demonstrates that the citizen in Wales deserves a better system of administrative justice, one that we can be justifiably proud of, so that we can reach a point where we can truly say that citizens have a fair and transparent system for seeking redress against public bodies who infringe their rights.

Access to administrative redress is part of the gold standard that a modern democracy should seek to attain, and this Report provides the way forward for our policy makers to take up the administrative justice challenge. I congratulate Sarah Nason on this fine piece of work, and thank all of those in the judiciary, the courts service, legal practitioners, Welsh Government officials and citizen stakeholders groups, who so generously participated in the preparatory research which underpins the findings in this Report."

Publication date: 17 November 2015