Robert Verkaik: It is only fair that judges be held to account

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In the wake of the summer's brouhaha over MPs' expenses, interest naturally turned to other public office-holders who make claims on the public purse. Police officers, council chiefs and senior civil servants have all had their personal financial claims subjected to the uncomfortable glare of public scrutiny. Likewise senior managers at the BBC had to justify why they spent thousands of pounds on champagne, flowers and gifts at the expense of the licence-fee payer.

Now it is the turn of the judiciary, whose highest ranks can command salaries of more than £200,000. The figures published in The Independent today reveal the scale of expense claims made by judges in the last three years but they don't call to account individual judges. Neither is there any explanation as to why the bill has risen by £3m in that same period.

It has become customary for the judiciary to head off inquiries about their individual expenses by accusing questioners of trying to undermine public confidence in their office.

But this was the same argument forcefully deployed by MPs until they lost their own battle with the Freedom of Information laws and had to put their hands up to claims for duck houses, moat cleaning and dodgy mortgages.

So while the Lord Chief Justice is to be applauded for his commitment to publish all the expense claims of the senior judiciary, it would be a shame if he stopped there.