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Ombudsman, Tribunals and Administrative Justice in the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law

ABSTRACT This editorial introduces the new editor of the Journal’s Ombudsman, Tribunals and Administrative Justice section; highlights the editorial team’s four strategic priorities for the section; and identifies four research priorities which the editorial team wishes to promote. For strategic priorities, the first is developing ‘applied administrative justice’ scholarship consciously directed at resolving practical administrative justice problems. Second is growing the connections between the Journal and civil society organisations, including those working on the frontline with individuals and communities most exposed to, and dependent on, public bodies. Third is expanding the interdisciplinary reach and content of the section, particularly to mental health and accounting. Fourth is encouraging early career researchers to become more involved in the section. As to research priorities, the editorial team identifies four themes: money and administrative justice, encouraging researchers to grapple with the financial benefits of their proposals and the effectiveness of different funding mechanisms; mental health and administrative justice, particularly through engaging with the fields of ”therapeutic jurisprudence” and ”law and emotion”; new technologies and administrative justice, particularly how virtual delivery changes experiences of public bodies; and hybridity and administrative justice, examining the complicated range of publics, privates, and charitables involved in modern public service delivery.

Public inquiries: irreconcilable interests and the importance of managing expectations

ABSTRACT Public inquiries address serious matters of public concern, including those affecting the most vulnerable and marginalised in society. There are ongoing, heated debates about how inquiries should be set up and run and who primarily should be served by a public inquiry. However, these debates must be judged in the context of an accurate understanding of their role and function. This article explores the source of misplaced expectations of the process, leading to frustration and distress for participants and delays, which can seriously undermine participant and public confidence. It argues that, even where the public inquiry process is well understood, conflicting interests and expectations arise because of the different capacities in which people engage with a public inquiry, which are often difficult or impossible to resolve. The article examines evidence of how this has led to frequent challenges about the setting up and running of public inquiries and considers judicial decisions on the decision-making process. It recognises limitations to the public inquiry process, which cannot always deliver the outcomes and resolution sought by participants and the public. It identifies the need for clearer articulation of the role and function of a public inquiry and more effective management of expectations.

Open Access