In England, tribunals are intended to be more informal and therefore accessible venues of justice where the parties cannot be expected to conduct proceedings with full legal competence.

In a pure adversarial system which England is mostly, judges are a passive audience largely precluded from making proactive inquiries (i.e. inquisitorial powers).

Is it that in order to bridge the gap and enable tribunals to have more just outcomes, tribunals' judges are afforded greater latitude to exercise inquisitorial roles than judges in courts?


2 Answers 2


Tribunals are not courts

Tribunals are an arm of administrative government (or of private contract in the case of arbitrations) and must follow the rules the statute that created them sets out. They are no different from other government decision makers like the police officer deciding whether or not to arrest you, the planner deciding whether or not to give you building permission, or the customs officer deciding whether or not to let you into the country.

This might look “adversarial” or “inquisitorial” but those are really not the correct terms to apply. A tribunal is what Parliament says it is.


In answer to the queation in the OP's title, although it isn't actually a "tribunal" the Coroner’s Court is inquisitorial:

An inquest is a fact-finding inquiry to establish who has died, how, when and where the death occurred. It is not a trial – no one is on trial in a Coroner’s Court. Unlike other Courts, whether civil or criminal, there is no prosecution or defence. The Coroner’s jurisdiction is inquisitorial rather than adversarial or accusatorial.


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