What is a Tribunal?

 

The term generally means, 'any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes'. For example, an advocate may appear before a court with a single judge and could describe that judge as 'their tribunal'. Many governmental bodies that are titled 'tribunals' are so described to emphasise that they are not courts of normal jurisdiction. For example, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is a body specially constituted under international law; whereas in Great Britain, employment tribunals are bodies set up to hear specific employment disputes.

In many (but not all) cases, the word tribunal implies a judicial (or quasi-judicial) body with a lesser degree of formality than a court, to which the normal rules of evidence and procedure may not apply, and whose presiding officers are frequently neither judges nor magistrates. Private judicial bodies are also often styled 'tribunals'. However, the word tribunal is not conclusive of a body's function–for example, in Great Britain, the Employment Appeal Tribunal is a superior court of record.

The tribunal system of the United Kingdom is part of the national system of administrative justice. Though it has grown up on an ad hoc basis since the beginning of the twentieth century, from 2007 reforms were put in place to build a unified system with recognised judicial authority, routes of appeal and regulatory supervision.