The Association has been pressing the case for fee-paid judges strongly, and through appropriate channels expressed concerns last year about attention appearing to be focused on improving the position just of salaried office-holders. In consultation documents on proposed changes now published, the Ministry of Justice has set out proposals which may be thought to put fee-paid judges on a more equal footing in relation to what is being proposed. All fee-paid judges will need to assess for themselves the actual merits of the proposals made, however, and links to the consultation documents are set out below.
The three consultation documents published by the Ministry of Justice on 16th July 2020 contain proposals for:
· introducing a reformed judicial pension scheme;
· raising the judicial mandatory retirement age; and
· addressing the discrimination identified in McCloud in respect of the judiciary.
The headings below contain the links to them:
The consultation proposes that all judges be moved into a new version of JUPRA from April 2022. The proposed scheme will be unregistered for tax purposes but will be reformed to bring it into line, so far as possible, with the Hutton principles for public service pensions – for example, by linking benefits to career average earnings. It is proposed to apply to both salaried and fee paid judges, and will give the benefits set out in the consultation document.
The consultation sets out proposals to raise the mandatory retirement age for judicial office holders from 70 to either 72 or 75. The proposals relate to judges, magistrates, non-legal members and coroners with the exception of judicial offices devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
At present retired salaried judges can be authorised to sit up to the age of 75, but by reason of legislation fee-paid judges cannot. An extension for all to sit until a higher maximum retirement age if there are business needs to be met would remove that anomaly.
In McCloud, the Court of Appeal held that transitional protections provided to older judges as part of the 2015 judicial pension reforms constituted unlawful direct age discrimination. The consultation proposes addressing the discrimination for all judges within the scope of the judgment by running an ‘options exercise’ in 2022. This would allow judges to choose whether to have accrued benefits in JUPRA/FPJPS or NJPS from 1 April 2015 until a reformed pension scheme is introduced in 2022.
The consultation exercises will run until 16 October 2020. Details of how to respond are provided in the consultation documents. The Ministry’s aim is to publish the Government’s response to each consultation in early 2021.
Steven Gasztowicz QC