The Employment Appeal Tribunal ("EAT") recently considered in the recent case of East of England Ambulance Service v Sanders whether an ET should be permitted to use Wikipedia.
At the first instance, the Employment Tribunal panel, after hearing evidence on a preliminary point relating to disability, researched a point on Wikipedia before informing the parties of the outcome of their research. None of the parties sought to admit the Wikipedia entry into evidence before the Employment Tribunal panel did this of their own volition.
The EAT said that the rules in the Employment Tribunal do not allow "a tribunal to make enquiries on its own behalf into evidence which was never volunteered by either party". In other words, under no circumstances should a tribunal turn itself into a modern, online version of Columbo! An Employment Tribunal should not carry out its own investigations.
The EAT clarified the Tribunal's role by saying that it may ask questions of the witnesses to elicit evidence "not the evidence which the tribunal wishes to hear but the evidence which the witness wants to give, as best the tribunal can understand it". It went on: "[the tribunal] should be cautious not to cross the line between impartiality and acting as an advocate