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Poor pay and pensions could force a third of judges to quit

A survey of all salaried judges paints of picture of them being overworked and undervalued by the public, press and politicians, reports Catherine Baksi

11 February 2015

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A third of all judges may quit in the next five years over poor pay and pensions as their workload increases and morale drops, the first survey of all salaries judges in the UK has revealed.

Of those judges in England and Wales that will not reach full retirement age in the next five years, a third (32 per cent) would consider leaving, including over half (58 per cent) of appellate judges and more than a third (39 per cent) of High Court judges.

Further limits of pay awards and a reduction in pension benefits were the two main reasons that would prompt them to quit, while the overwhelming majority (83 per cent) said higher pay would be a key factor in keeping them in post until they reached retirement age.

Almost all judges (86 per cent) who had been in post for at least five years said their working conditions are worse than they were five years ago, with 46 per cent reporting that their caseload was 'too high'. They also complained about a lack of resources and 'poor' IT equipment.

While most (86 per cent) felt a strong personal attachment to being a member of the judiciary and virtually all (97 per cent) felt they provided an important service to society, almost two thirds (62 per cent) said they felt less respected by society than they were 10 years ago.

They also reported a lack of respect from government and the media. Only 2 per cent said they felt valued by the government and 4 per cent by the press.

Judges said the main challenges for the future are reduction in support staff (93 per cent), low judicial morale (86 per cent), fiscal constraints (81 per cent), attracting the best people to the judiciary (78 per cent), litigants in person (77 per cent), loss of judicial independence (65 per cent) and loss of experienced judges (56 per cent).

In a joint statement, the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas, (pictured) and the senior president of tribunals, Lord Justice Sullivan, said: 'The survey shows that many judges are feeling, in common with millions of other people, that their work has become harder year after year in many ways.

'Even though they know they are well paid compared to most people, they, like many others, have seen their pay drop in real terms.'

They said: 'The survey also shows that judges do not carry out the work solely for the money. Their work is rewarding, but also demanding - confronting significant human suffering, loss and family breakdowns or untangling business transactions with livelihoods and businesses at stake. 'Judges are dedicated to their role, working harder and longer to keep standards high. Investment which has been promised to give judges modern IT will help.'

Read the full results here.