The Counsel General will today confirm a Welsh Government consultation to inform future legislation to establish a single, unified tribunal system for Wales.
A White Paper will be introduced in the coming months to introduce reform, and Mick Antoniw said a modern, independent Welsh tribunal service will be the cornerstone of a future justice system in Wales.
It comes as the Senedd debates the President of Welsh Tribunals Annual Report - Sir Wyn Williams' final report as President.
While powers over the justice system in Wales are largely held by the UK government, Wales has a number of devolved tribunals, each operating under its own legislation. Some - including mental health, agriculture and the Welsh language - are grouped as the ‘Welsh Tribunals' under the supervision of the President of Welsh Tribunals, while others including school admission and exclusion appeal panels operate outside of that grouping. The purpose of the planned reform is to improve coherence in the system and improve people's access to justice.
The independent Commission on Justice in Wales recommended that tribunals which determine disputes in both civil and administrative law should be under one unified system, and the Law Commission provided a number of recommendations setting out structural reforms required to modernise the tribunal system.
Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, said:
Bringing these tribunals together - and establishing an appellate court in Wales for the first time - will give the nation a simple, modern and fair tribunal structure. It is another step towards designing a coherent and high performing justice system for Wales.
I want to be very clear that judicial independence is the guiding principle for the way in which judicial institutions are supported in Wales. This will not be lost in these tribunal reforms.
The case for further devolution of the justice system is now well-established and we look forward to justice and policing being devolved to Wales so we can deliver a better system for citizens, communities and businesses. Until then, tribunal reform is an excellent example of how we can use the levers at our disposal now to pursue a whole-system, person-centred approach to justice.
The Counsel General added:
I want to put on record my thanks to Sir Wyn Williams for his significant contribution as President. He has been instrumental in driving progress and shaping a system of Welsh Tribunals with strong judicial independence.
I also want to welcome Sir Gary Hickinbottom into the role from next month. I look forward to working with him as we move towards a reformed tribunal service.