Judges attack the Government over court funding

TWO SENIOR judges yesterday used their retirement speeches to deliver stinging rebukes to the Government as the row over funding for the legal system reached a new pitch.

Lord Donaldson, who is stepping down as Master of the Rolls in September, aimed the first shots with a fierce attack on the Government for failing to appoint more judges to the Court of Appeal.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, was forced to sit beside Lord Donaldson as he warned that waiting times for criminal and civil appeals would inevitably worsen without ministerial action.

This was followed by an equally hostile speech from another appeal court judge, Lord Justice Parker, who condemned the decision to award the judiciary pay rises of only 4 per cent - as opposed to the 19.4 per cent recommended by the Top Salaries Review. This could imperil the 'high quality of the judiciary'.

Lord Donaldson's comments came during his farewell gathering, at which the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor, was among those paying tribute to the man who succeeded Lord Denning as Master of the Rolls 10 years ago.

Speaking to a courtroom packed with the most senior judges in England and Wales, Lord Donaldson fired the latest salvo in an increasingly acrimonious debate over judicial recruitment.

'I have no doubt that it is my duty to inform and warn both the Government and the public if the level of resources is such that the standard of service which the Court can offer is likely to decline or is in fact declining,' he said.

His concerns are shared by other senior judges, including Lord Taylor, who recently spoke of long delays in the criminal division of the Court of Appeal. Both men say waiting times can only be curbed by the appointment of many more judges.

Lord Donaldson said that in the civil division, which he heads, 'the situation is now far worse than I had ever expected'. The number of outstanding appeals had risen from 989 to 1,130 in the past 12 months, probably leading to a 12.5 per cent increase in waiting times, he said.

With Appeal Court judges increasingly diverted to deal with criminal cases, the 'civil division may be confined to hearing the more urgent appeals, leaving the rest to wait for very long periods of time'.

According to Lord Justice Parker, the Government might not be able to appoint high quality judges, even if it wished to do so. Pay levels had fallen so far that many lawyers were not interested in appointment to the bench, which was often seen as 'second choice'.

Under the 4 per cent increase, High Court judges will see their salaries rise from pounds 84,250 to pounds 87,620. However, Lord Justice Parker said that even if the 19.4 per cent recommendation had been accepted, judicial earnings would have fallen in real terms since 1985.

The Government might think that quality of the judiciary could be maintained at present salary levels - or it might not care, he said. 'But the public surely will, because the high quality of the judiciary is the only protection against abuse of power.'

Earlier, Lord Taylor had spoken of Lord Donaldson's 'illustrious career', which had 'shaped the law and defined it in many fields'. He reserved particular praise for the reforms introduced by Lord Donaldson to streamline and speed up courtroom procedures.

A high-flying barrister and then judge, Lord Donaldson had been asked to chair the National Industrial Relations Court, set up by Edward Heath in the 1970s. This had aroused hostility from the left and delayed Lord Donaldson's promotion to the Court of Appeal - the only example of 'political influence over judicial appointments in living memory', according to Lord Taylor.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Application Developer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in the centre of Glasgow,...

Recruitment Genius: Production Engineering Manager

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Joinery Shop Foreman

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Joinery Shop Foreman is required to join a p...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Joiner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Bench Joiner is required to join a privately...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada