The Retirement Laws and Reforms for Judges

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In this essay I will be discussing whether or not the retirement age for judges should be raised to 75. A judge is an individual who is in charge of applying the laws that are made by Parliament, to each case that comes to court. This is done by using certain aspects of law, for example, precedent in common law. There are several different types of judges in UK law, such as; circuit judges, district judges, high court judges, and magistrates (magistrates only deal with minor cases, and have no legal experience/ qualifications) etc.

Under Section 26 of the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993, the current age that judges must retire at is 70. However, if you were appointed as a judge before the 31st March 1995, then you can remain a judge until you are 75 years of age. One of the main reasons why the retirement age for judges was increased to 70 by the above act was so the courts could introduce consistency with the legal system in regards to the aspect of judicial retirement. This can be seen as unfair on those who were appointed after 1995, as they are forced into an earlier retirement, when they may in fact want to continue their career as a judge. There have been many cases where judges have tried to sue for age discrimination. One case example is John v Ministry of Justice (2014). In this case, the judges took their cases to the Ministry of Justice, however they were unsuccessful when trying to sue for age discrimination in regards to the retirement age for judges. This is because the law set in regarding the retirement age was set in order to meet the public policy aims. And in order to achieve this would mean that the current retirement age should remain at 70 years old. Therefore, the judges were unsuccessful in their case and were forced into retirement.

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There are also many articles that portray the cases of Judge Jeremy Varcoe, and Judge Stuart Southgate. The following two judges had also complained to the Employment Tribunal in Berks, when they were told that they were too old to continue serving their role as judiciary members at the age of 70. They subsequently argued that they were victims of age discrimination by the Ministry of Justice. However, they unfortunately lost their case as the decision made by the Ministry of Justice regarding their case was that, no further contracts for judges over 70 would be renewed. Therefore meaning they would be legally forced into an early retirement. Despite wanting to continue the career they are passionate about. There can be many pros and cons towards the current retirement age, and whether it should be raised to 75.

For example, some people may disagree with the fact that the retirement age for judges should be raised to 75 as it does not give the younger generation a chance to enjoy the career path they have selected for their life. This is because they would have to wait a lot longer to get the opportunity to work in that position in the legal field. In addition to this, factors such as diversity in gender, race etc, has also increased in the younger generation as society has developed more and subsequently become further evolved. Norms and values among other factors in society have also changed a lot for the new generation among us. As what the older generation of judges would not have seen as e.g. a norm or value, many now be one in the modern day society. Therefore, this can also affect the mentality of the judge themselves and how they would apply the law to cases. On the other hand, some people would disagree with the above as younger individuals who have chosen the career path of a judge, still have an equal chance as the normal retirement age for a job in the UK for men is 65 and for women is 60 years of age. Therefore, meaning that some people may wish to retire at an earlier age instead of retiring at the age of 70 given by the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993. Subsequently, allowing those who feel as if they should stop their time as a judge earlier than they want to. This allows the younger generation of judges to step up to the legal role of a judge. In addition to this, it will allow society to have public confidence in the legal system because by having different retirement ages, allows the legal system to promote diversity within the law. Which once again, can help to maintain public confidence within not only the legal system but also with members of the judiciary.

Another advantage of the judges being forced into ‘early’ retirement at the age of 70, is that despite their position of being a judge is not valid anymore, they are still allowed to sit judicially in court. For instance, some judges still sit part-time as a deputy circuit judge whilst they are in retirement. For instance, a deputy district judge is appointed for 5 years. However, even though they can be extended for longer they are still binded to the contractual agreement that their retirement age is 70. Therefore, their legal expertise is still being used and not wasted. However, once again the law can be seen to be unfair and truly age discriminating to individuals, as if you are aged 75, and a retired judge, you are not allowed to do the above. This can be considered as unfair on older, more experienced senior legal expertise’s as they are being victims to ageism via the law. Despite the law meant to prevent discrimination from taking place.

Some may say that a problem this can cause is inconsistency in the law, as the law is contradicting itself by discriminating older individuals when discrimination itself is against the law. For instance, the Equality Act 2010 is supposed to protect individuals who are experiencing discrimination in regard to a certain personal characteristic. This could be example, race, sex, disability, religion, and in this case, age. A person can bring about their case within a limit of 6 months of the act taking place in the County Court in England and Wales, or if the person is in Scotland then they would go to the Sheriff Court. However, due to the law made for judiciary in the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993, they wouldn’t be able to use the Equality Act as a sense of protecting themselves from age discrimination. This subsequently creates inconsistency in the law as both of the mentioned laws contradict each other. For instance, The Equality Act 2010 protects us, but at the same time cannot be used as protection from ageism from the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993. To overcome this problem, I think that Parliament should introduce a time limit for how long a judge can hold their position. And do not think that they should have a specific retirement age for a judge. This is because some individuals may take time off of their duties to e.g. raise their children. And therefore, they are losing out on the time that they could in fact have spent on their careers.

So, by giving individuals a limit of e.g. 15-20 years of being a judge would be fairer than keeping the retirement age the same, or by even raising it to 75. By doing this, it would enable the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act, to not discriminate others in regards to their age as their time in court will not be based on the age that they are, but instead on the amount of time they have spent in that legal expertise position.

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