15 March 2006

What should a tribunal chair do in the unlikely event that they spot a claimant who has just been awarded higher rate mobility sprinting to catch a bus? When should claimants be told to swear an oath? The answer to these questions and many more can be found in the Benchbook, a highly practical and surprisingly non-technical guide for tribunal chairs on how to conduct hearings and deal with any problems that arise.

Judge Michael Harris President of the Appeals Service says in the introduction to the book that every chairman is expected to take the Benchbook to tribunals and use it. Every representative should probably do the same.

The kind of issues it covers include:

  • What to do if the appellant doesn't turn up or is late.
  • What to do if the representative doesn't turn up.
  • Whether to make the claimant swear an oath.
  • What factors to take should be taken into account when deciding whether to adjourn for further medical evidence.
  • Children giving evidence.
  • What observations of the claimant, such as body language and facial expressions, can be taken into account.
  • Whether plea bargaining with a representative is permissible.
  • How to weigh evidence, the issue of burden of proof and how to deal with late evidence.
  • How to work with interpreters.

There is also a particularly helpful six page description of how to write a full statement of reasons if either party is considering an appeal to the commissioners. Because this contains a lot of do's and, more importantly, don'ts it provides very valuable pointers for claimants and representatives looking for grounds to appeal to the commissioners.

The Benchbook can be downloaded from the members area of the Benefits and Work website.


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