friday, 7 june of 2019

Judges

High court judges get pay rise to deal with hiring crisis in England and Wales

High court judges are to be given a significant boost to their £185,000-plus salaries in an attempt to overcome a recruitment crisis. With more than a tenth of high court posts in England and Wales vacant, the justice secretary, David Gauke, has announced an enhanced "temporary recruitment and retention allowance scheme" to encourage applications.

An allowance worth 25% of the judges’ basic salary will replace the 11% additional payment introduced in 2017. It means the total package for high court judges will go up by nearly 13% compared with last year – more when a pay rise kicks in in October.

The rises are in response to a review by the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB). The Ministry of Justice has also granted a 15% allowance to crown court and upper tribunal judges. Those amounts are in addition to a 2% increase for all judges to be paid from October.

Last year, the SSRB recommended a 32% allowance for high court judges, 22% for crown court judges and 8% for district judges. The allowances are temporary until there is an outcome to a legal claim over judges’ pension rights that the MoJ is fighting. Then "a sustainable, pension-based solution can be implemented", the MoJ said.

Announcing the changes Gauke said: "Our judges are a cornerstone of our democratic society – their experience draws billions of pounds worth of business to the UK, and without them people cannot get justice."

“We have reached a critical point. There are too many vacancies and with the retirement of many judges looming we must act now before we see a serious impact on our courts and tribunals.

"Judges are in a unique position and once they join the bench are not permitted to return to practice". Without the best legal minds in these seats everyone that uses our courts will suffer, as will our international reputation.

"This temporary allowance, pending long-term pension scheme change, will enable us to continue to attract the brightest and best and prevent delays to potentially life-changing decisions."

The scale of the salary additions is likely to trigger claims across Whitehall, where salaries have been suppressed by years of austerity.

The MoJ warned that, if urgent action was not taken, the chancery division of the high court would be down to 40% below strength by the end of the year and there would be severe delays to the administration of justice. The department is also fighting a mass legal claim by judges over their pension rights.

Responding to the award, the lord chief justice of England and Wales, Ian Burnett, and the senior president of tribunals, Sir Ernest Ryder, said: "It is an important step which we are confident will have a significant effect on addressing critical shortages in the judiciary".

"Judges understand very well how delays to the cases they decide can affect the people and businesses involved". They do their utmost to ensure cases are dealt with both promptly and fairly, but are nonetheless concerned that there is an urgent need to recruit enough judges to tackle the workload in a sustainable way.

"Judges are conscious that they are well paid compared to most in the public sector. They are continually finding ways to make the administration of justice more efficient both through the modernisation programme being run by HMCTS and more widely. We are pleased that the government are taking action to address the serious difficulties faced in recruiting to the judiciary."

(Published by The Guardian, June 7 2019)
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