Extra judges will ease High Court load

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The Independent Online
THE Lord Chancellor has finally waded into the long-running, and at times acrimonious, battle over the number of High Court judges and emerged on the side of the judiciary rather than ministers.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern is to recommend the appointment of 10 additional High Court judges to help to reduce delays and backlogs of cases, overcoming the Treasury squeeze on funds.

The announcement comes after a threat last month from Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice - appointed with a mandate to modernise the judiciary and streamline the appeals system - that he could not do his job without more judges.

In a speech to the House of Lords, he warned: 'Unless we have some more High Court judges appointed soon . . . the present situation will truly become a national disgrace.'

The move also follows a review of the High Court workload by a group of judges and officials, chaired by Lord Justice Kennedy, which recommended between 10 and 13 new judges. The Kennedy report highlighted 'serious and unacceptable' delays in hearing criminal appeals, with average waiting times for an appeal against conviction running at 15 months. A 'growth industry' in judicial reviews had led to waiting times of at least a year in cases which were not expedited.

The new judges, who are likely to take up their posts later this year, will be deployed in an effort to clear backlogs in the Chancery Division, Court of Appeal Criminal Division, Crown Office list, Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Commercial Court.

News of their appointment came in an answer to a parliamentary question from Sir John Wheeler, the Conservative MP for Westminster North.

Last night Lord Taylor said:

'I welcome the decision most warmly. The Lord Chancellor has clearly recognised the urgent need for more judges. Lord Taylor said he had managed 'by starving other ends of the justice system' to arrange for a sixth criminal appeal court to sit at the Royal Courts of Justice in London from the autumn.

'I think we should make some very big inroads into the backlog, if we don't clear it all in a year.'


Lord Chief Justice pounds 112,082

Lords of Appeal pounds 103,790

Master of the Rolls pounds 103,790

Lord Justices of Appeal pounds 99,510

Vice Chancellor pounds 99,510

High Court Judge pounds 90,147