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Public law and Regulation

Case reports and guidance on public law and professional regulation issues

28 FEB 2013

FR v Broadland District Council [2012] UKUT 449 (AAC); (2013) PLLR 013

First-tier tribunal - oral hearing - request for adjournment - decision made without sight of reasons for request - regulation 2 Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (SEC) Rules 2008 - overriding objective to deal with cases fairly and justly - delay - precedence of judicial proceedings.

The decision not to postpone a hearing at the request of the applicant breached the overriding objective of dealing with cases fairly and justly contained within the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (SEC) rules 2008 where it was taken without the judge having sight of the applicant's written reasons for the postponement.

3 December 2012

Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber)

Judge Mark

(1)        The applicant (FR) sought backdated payment of housing benefit. He sought to adjourn the oral hearing as he was in the process of starting a business and had meetings to attend. The judge refused his application without having sight of the letter setting out his reasons and dismissed his appeal. FR subsequently applied to have that decision dismissed for procedural irregularity. It took a judge three months to refuse that application, again without sight of the original reasons.

(2)        Judge Mark held (i) that the initial decision to refuse to postpone the hearing was manifestly wrong in law. Where there is a written request for adjournment, the judge determining the application should see this. The second judge should have seen the written request. There was no absolute principle to say that judicial proceedings take precedent over other appointments. The tribunal's power of adjournment or postponement arises under regulation 5 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (SEC) Rules 2008 (the 2008 Rules). The overriding objective of the 2008 Rules is that cases be dealt with fairly and justly. Regulation 2 sets out factors to be taken into account in connection with this objective, which include proportionality, flexibility, ensuring participation in so far as is practicable, and avoiding delay. Relevant factors in the instant case included FR's flexibility as to alternative dates, that the sum was of greater importance to FR than to the council, that the application had been received promptly and that, without sight of FR's letter, the first tribunal could not proceed in a fair manner and should not have done so. The initial refusal to adjourn was in error of law and that and the subsequent decision dismissing FR's appeal were to be set aside [6], [9] - [11], [14].

Decision set aside and remitted for reconsideration by a new tribunal.

Key paragraphs

[1] - [5] - Factual background

[6] - [14] - The tribunal decisions and the overriding obligation to ensure fairness.

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