Mail moans about moaning judges. But how can we improve the courts environment?

Last week while waiting for my son in the barber’s shop, I did something that I wouldn’t normally do. I picked up a copy of the Daily Mail. I didn’t have to turn too many pages to reach the paper’s latest snide attack on our judiciary. 

‘Spare a thought for our poor judges!’ cried the Mail. ‘They moan they’re underpaid and underappreciated (despite enjoying six-figure salaries).’

The Mail was reporting, of course, on the latest judicial attitudes survey. 

As the Gazette’s own story on the same survey pointed out, the judicial environment is dogged by some very real problems: low morale, crumbling buildings, personal safety concerns, pay and pension cuts, and a mounting workload. 

The court system is screaming out for more money. But so is the prison system. So is the NHS. 

Given that the only solution on offer for the courts involves pinning all hopes on technology as the way to secure access to justice, the survey had some worrying findings in relation to court IT. Some 54% of judges felt IT equipment in courts was ‘poor’, and 46% described IT support in the courts as ’poor’. 

How do judges feel they are regarded by the rest of the legal profession? The survey had some interesting stats on this – and the results varied a lot according to the position.

Almost all Court of Appeal (85%) and High Court judges (82%) felt valued by lawyers, as did 71% of circuit judges and 69% of employment judges – dropping to 60% for district judges. But only a minority of Upper Tribunal judges (45%) and First-Tier Tribunal judges (35%) felt valued by the legal profession. Could this be a reflection on the quality of performance among tribunal judges? 

Despite the pressures, there was at least some heart-warming news amid the survey stats. Almost every judge in the survey felt they had an important job to do, and expressed a commitment to doing that job as well as they possibly can.

The Daily Mail hasn’t managed to grind them down just yet.

Rachel Rothwell is editor of Litigation Funding magazine