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Senior President of Tribunals issues practice direction on written reasons for decisions by the First-tier Tribunal

The Senior President of Tribunals has issued a new practice direction giving guidance to the First-tier Tribunal on the provision of written reasons for a decision. The practice direction refers to the procedure rules which specify where the tribunal must provide written reasons for its decision (rule 29) although “the giving of reasons may be required in the interests of justice even if not mandated by the rules”.

It sets out what is expected when written reasons are given:

they must always be adequate, clear, appropriately concise, and focused upon the principal controversial issues on which the outcome of the case has turned. To be adequate, the reasons for a judicial decision must explain to the parties why they have won and lost. The reasons must enable the reader to understand why the matter was decided as it was and what conclusions were reached on the main issues in dispute. They must always enable an appellate body to understand why the decision was reached, so that it is able to assess whether the decision involved the making of an error on a point of law. These fundamental principles apply to the tribunals as well as to the courts.

The practice direction is clear that the need to provide “adequate” reasons does not mean that they need to be lengthy, with emphasis placed on reasons being “concise” and “In some cases a few succinct paragraphs will suffice”. The emphasis on brevity may be part of an attempt to reduce the tribunal’s workload in the context of an ever rising backlog, although this practice direction also follows two Court of Appeal decisions from earlier this year in which the First-tier Tribunal judge was heavily criticised for poorly written decisions.

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Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.

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