Senior Judge Warns of the Importance of Deadlines

Lord Justice Mummery, a senior judge, has announced that people should avoid the law as far as possible.

The advice was given during a Court of Appeal decision, in which Lord Justice Mummery was contemplating whether or not to allow a restaurant owner to appeal the £14,777 compensation he had been compelled to pay to a former employee, who was claiming disability discrimination and unjust dismissal.

David Piper, the restaurant owner, had intended to lodge his notice of appeal with the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in person, but found the office closed. His notice was then lodged outside of the six-week deadline that applies to any appeal that a person wishes to make against a tribunal decision. Even a few minutes after the deadline is normally too late.

Lord Justice Mummery decreed that the appeal would not be allowed, since he considered the six-week time limit generous, and Piper’s claim to have an unlikely chance of success. He then proceeded to declare that he is “sympathetic to all litigants who get caught up in our legal system” and that people are “best off having nothing to do with it”.

Although these words are not helpful for those who have to continuously deal with the rules and regulations of employment law for example, they do illustrate the prevailing sense of convolution surrounding the law and how difficult it can be to understand. The Law Society’s 2010 Manifesto indeed describes the need for legislations that have been more thoroughly examined to prevent obscurity, with the aim of avoiding overly-complicated laws or laws that are repealed shortly afterwards.

Regardless though of the state of the legal system, the case of David Piper is a clear demonstration of the importance of being wary of procedures when involved with the law, especially regarding tribunal claims.

For employers, deadlines can be advantageous since, for example, employees must file a claim before the end of three months from the date of the event that caused distress. On the other hand, the shorter response time allowed to employers, 28 days from the date of reception of the notice from the tribunal, means that hours of training coming to terms with legislative development will be useless if the deadline to respond is missed. In extreme cases, missing such deadlines could also propagate a costs award against the responsible party.

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