Monday 06 August 2012 by Catherine Baksi
Reforms to the efficiency of the administration of justice have increased the burdens on the judiciary at a time when their pay and pension packages are being cut, according to a report from the lord chief justice, Igor Judge.
Judge (pictured) said the period covered by his latest report on the work of the courts - January 2010 to June 2012 - had been a 'time of exceptional national difficulty' during which the country experienced continued economic crisis and last summer's riots.
He said the administration of justice had not been 'immunised' from the economic crisis and pointed to the widespread reforms and reviews across criminal, civil, family and tribunal systems.
'The perceptive reader will appreciate that these changes, all intended to improve the efficiency of the administration of justice without any diminution in its quality, add considerably to the burdens on the judiciary,' Judge wrote in a foreward to the report.
His report notes the 34th report of the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) which highlights the fall in value of judges' remuneration, given the three-year pay freeze and pension reforms.
In relation to pay, the SSRB said the value of the take-home pay of circuit judges had fallen by 15.9%; district judges and circuit judges by 16%; high court judges by 17%; and Court of Appeal judges by 18.4%.
Judge said the morale, recruitment and retention of judges of the highest calibre 'depends in part on the adequacy of their financial reward'. He warned that the pay and pension reforms are 'likely to cause judicial retention and recruitment problems'.
Looking at criminal justice, Judge said that over the period covered by this report, while the volume of cases and number of sitting days had reduced, the number of cases dealt with in a day has increased and backlogs had fallen, particularly in London.
These improvements were driven in part by the work of the judiciary to reduce the number of unnecessary hearings, late guilty pleas and the length of trials.
On family justice, he said the rise in applications for care and supervision orders in recent years had continued to place considerable additional demands on the courts and other parts of the system.
The number of civil claims has fallen progressively from 2,183,539 in 2006 to 1,616,536 in 2010, but said Judge, the pressures on the civil justice system are powerful given the increasing complexity of cases.
The Administrative Court too 'remains under enormous pressure' he said, in particular when dealing with urgent applications for interim relief and judicial review in circumstances where people are being removed from the UK by charter flight.