In average age was 58 for CrownIn average age was 58 for Crown

In my essay, I am going to be discussing whether the retirement
age for judges should be raised to 75, looking in depth at issues surrounding
the current retirement age and what the outcomes may be if government increased
the retirement age, before reaching my own conclusion on the matter. This is an
issue which has become increasingly relevant in recent years with many MP’s and
judges speaking out on the topic. The Judicial Pensions Act (1959) made it
mandatory for judges to retire at the latest age of 75 however, an amendment to
this act in 1933 altered the retirement age to 70. Due to this any judges,
which were appointed before the 31st of March 1995 can continue in
their position until they are 75 (Judicial Pensions Act, 1959).  One of the main arguments for the retirement age being
raised to 75 is the lack of suitably qualified applicants to fill vacancies for
crown court and high court judges. This idea has raised a lot of support from
many judges and MPs, including Bob Neill whom said keeping the retirement age
at 70 works against the behaviour of both society and the economy (Bowcott,
2017). Lord Phillips said that due to the structure of our current legal system
many did not get on the judicial ladder until their 50’s and were almost 70 by
the time they were seen to
be a suitable candidate for the Supreme Court (Peel and Croft, 2009). In 2015
the average age was 58 for Crown Court judges and 63 for judges in the Court of
Appeal (Paxman, 2015). This shows that many judges are not far from the
retirement age. With such a low number of capable applicants to replace retired
judges, this would mean that the courts would not have enough staff to be run
efficiently. For example, in 2016 6 high court vacancies were unable to be
filled. This also adds to the problem of putting a great deal of strain and
extra pressure upon our current judges whom already have a demanding job. The
deputy president of the supreme court Lady Hale, stated that due to the
retirement age being capped at 70, 9 judges will retire before 2020 ‘even
though they are at the height of their powers’ (Croft, 2017). Therefore if the
retirement age was increased to 75, this would ease the growing problem of finding
suitable replacements and ensure the courts continue to run efficiently. Lady Hale’s statement
also highlights the other key argument for increasing the retirement age to 75.
Along with many other people Lady Hale holds the view that older judges who are
coming close to the retirement age are at the peak of their expertise and
skills and that by forcing them to retire at 70 would consequentially result in
a less talented bench of judges. The years of expertise these judges hold will
come in beneficially in the future with having to interpret UK law after we
have left the European Union. Especially regarding the Supreme Court, it takes
judges a long time to work their way up the judicial ladder to reach this
point. It takes a very long time for judges to amass this much experience and
it would take an inferior judge many years to even be considered for the
Supreme Court.  Another interesting point to note is that as of last year the
government increased the age limit for jurors to rise to 75 corresponding with
the increase in life expectancy. The vast majority of citizens can be called to
sit on a jury, and with little or no legal expertise are given the
responsibility to reach a decision of whether a person is guilty or not. This
raises the question of why an experienced and talented judge is unable to carry
on in their tenure. In consideration of this factor, justification for early
retirement is confounding and appears to promote partiality towards judges.
Consequently, some believe that increasing the retirement age for judges to 75
is an appropriate adjustment.  A strong argument against increasing the retirement to 70 is
to ensure that the composition of the judiciary represents a more accurate
reflection of the demographic make-up in our society. It has often been noted
that the senior judiciary seems to be dominated by old, white, and privately
educated males – on cases which require statutory interpretation this may lead to
courts making biased decisions and due to their age many members of the public view
them to have ‘outdated philosophies’. An example of the lack of diversity in
our judiciary can be seen in a report published by the judiciary in 2017, which
found that only 28% of court judges were women and only 7% of judges were from
an ethnic minority group (Judicial Diversity Statistics, 2017). This shows an inaccurate
reflection of the groups in our society and could leave minorities feeling they
are not represented within the judicial system. More alarmingly a report
published by the House of Lords constitution committee also found that as the
importance of the role played in the judiciary increased, the less
representative it is; for example, the Supreme Court only holds 2 women on the
bench our of 12 (Roberts, 2016). By increasing the retirement age to 75, this
would permit an already un-representative judiciary to stay in power for
longer. By maintaining the retirement age at 70, it allows more opportunities
to produce a judiciary which better reflects the diversity and different groups
we have in society. The director of Justice Andrea Coomber supports this view; ‘Now
is the perfect time for change. We are faced with an unprecedented opportunity
as the majority of the supreme court – all nine judge from England and Wales –
will be replaced over the next three years… With such a high number of
appointments opening up, there is a real chance to change swiftly the
demographic composition of our senior judiciary’. The lack of representation within
our current judicial can be seen as undemocratic; with some cases allow the
judiciary to interpret statutes in a way which can be perceived as them constructing
law themselves. For example, Stephen V Donoghue (1932) which established ‘the
duty of care’ in tort law and has been used as a precedent since. To change the
composition of the judiciary to a more representative body would greatly
increase impartiality and democracy within the justice system. As a result, this
could positively change the public’s perception of judges and would increase
their confidence in the judiciary. Furthermore, making the judiciary more
diverse could greatly benefit the courts as it allows for different perspectives
and experiences to be exchanged.   Some also may also argue that a retirement age of 70 is
essential to maintaining a successful and efficient judiciary. With old age
comes the risk of increased mental impairment, however even if a judge is
suffering from forms of mental impairment, it is extremely unlikely they will
be dismissed once they hold their position. In his time on the Supreme Court
bench Lord Widgery was found to be suffering from dementia, some described him
as ‘visibly and distressingly half-senile’ and he was seen to be falling asleep
in court. Nonetheless Lord Widgery was not dismissed and allowed to stay on in his
role as Lord Chief Justice although he would have been considered non compos
mentis (Rozenberg, 1994). To a certain extent mandatory retirement at 70
protects the public against mistakes or misjudgements which could be made by
senile judges. This is of great importance as judges are extremely influential
and their decisions can impact the lives of many.  On the other hand,
there has been evidence of many judges who were over the age of 70 (appointed
under the old provisions) still doing their job effectively and contributing
much to our judiciary. Regarding the Supreme Court, Lord Phillips argued that
by the time a judge is appointed it should be clear that their ‘faculties and
abilities are still sharp’ despite being above the age of a normal retirement
age (Frances Gibb, 2009). Accordingly many believe that so long as a judge is
in control of their faculties and is still proficient at their job they should
be allowed to remain in their post.  

Considering these factors, in my opinion, the retirement age
for judges should be increased to 75. Although I do believe the lack of
representation in our judiciary is something which needs reforming, I believe
there are other methods of making the composition of the judiciary more diverse;
for example, many politicians have spoken of diversity targets which is a good
idea to ensure a more balanced judiciary and it was stated that many members of
the judiciary encourage people from non-stereotypical backgrounds to put
themselves forward for a judicial career (Judiciary Diversity Statement, 2013).
Furthermore, to address any potential bias the judiciary may hold due to its
composition; judges have to take an oath to act with neutrality and put aside
their personal views when making rulings, thus making bias in rulings less
likely. The amount of skill and experience a judge has would take an incredibly
long time to gain, considering the age most people enter the judiciary. This is
the main reason I believe judges should be able to work until 75 as it is
essentially wasting talent otherwise. Also, to deal with the challenge that a
judge may have mental impairment after a certain age, I believe safe guards
should be put in place to prevent this as much as possible. For example, when
reaching 70 judges could have to speak with a psychiatrist to assess their
mental state.  For these reasons I
believe it would be in the best interest of the judiciary to increase the
retirement age.

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