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Information Tribunal abolished as new service takes charge

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The appeals process for freedom of information and data protection cases changes from today as the previous structure is absorbed into a wider tribunals service.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is responsible for monitoring organisations' compliance with freedom of information and data protection laws. Appeals against its ruling have until now gone through the Information Tribunal.

From today, though, the Information Tribunal has been subsumed into the General Regulatory Chamber (GRC), part of a unified tribunals service. The unification of tribunals services is part of a Government plan to centralise tribunal activity. Tribunals covering tax and property issues already form a part of the service.

Other Tribunals becoming part of the GRC include the Gambling Appeals Tribunal; the Claims Management Tribunal; the Immigration Services Tribunal; and the Family Health Services Appeal Authority.

The move involves a change to the structure of appeals against ICO decisions. A first tier tribunal will hear initial cases but it will be possible to appeal these to an Upper Tribunal's Administrative Appeals chamber. Last year, however, the Tribunals Service told potential users of the new structure that some issues will be deemed serious enough to be heard immediately by that Upper Tribunal.

"For some information rights appeals, cases will be heard in the first instance in the Upper Tribunal," said Tribunals Service officer Mike Watson in a letter to the Service's users last year. "This will occur where it is considered that the appeal raises complex or unusual issues and the importance of the case would merit it being dealt with in the higher Tribunal."

The High Court previously heard appeals from the Information Tribunal. Cases will now go straight from the Upper Tribunal to the Court of Appeals, the Service said.

A Statutory Instrument published earlier this month ordered that the changes take place today and that from today the Information Tribunal be abolished.

The Statutory Instrument in question can be read here (pdf).

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