IT IS perhaps not so well known but nonetheless serves an important function in executing law and order in society when upholding disputes – especially for the ‘little person’ with no legal representation.
Havant Justice Centre plays an important role in democracy with it being the primary venue for tribunals in Portsmouth and Hampshire.
With four designated court rooms that hear a wide variety of cases it seeks to uphold justice in a wide range of areas including social security, special educational needs, residential property, war pensions and employment.
It also supports individuals with special needs, such as the elderly or disabled, who may not be able to travel far by hearing their cases.
And with around two-thirds of cases involving people with no legal representation, it seeks to uphold the ideals of justice and avoid lay people being bullied by the all-powerful.
To see justice in action, Sarah Le May, High Sheriff of Hampshire, paid a visit to the justice centre for the first time to observe hearings and meet with tribunal judges to discuss the valuable role it plays.
She said: ‘Everyone thinks Sheriffs are only concerned with High Court judges but there is so much more to the judiciary system.
‘It’s nice to see first hand how everything works and how it all fits together. Tribunals are an unseen part of the judiciary but play an important role in society.
‘They are civil courts where many people are likely to visit in their life, more so than a criminal court. They differ from criminal courts with them inquisitorial rather than adversarial.’
Regional tribunal judge Michael Tildesley said the visit of the High Sheriff was a reflection of the status of the justice centre. ‘We welcome the interest of the High Sheriff in the significant contribution to the administration of justice,’ he said.
‘Tribunals provide access to justice to citizens often without legal representation to determine their disputes with the state and with each other.
‘The High Sheriff’s visit marks an important milestone in the recognition of Havant Justice Centre as one of the primary venues in Hampshire for the hearing of civil disputes.’
Employment judge Mark Emerton, who oversees disputes where he awards pay-outs ranging from £3.5m to £200, added: ‘The justice centre is important because it has good facilities and a number of hearing rooms which means a lot of cases can be heard here.
‘It also caters for people with special needs like disabled people, so if they are unable to get to Southampton where most tribunals are heard then their case can be heard in Havant.’