The Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) of England and Wales has said talking to judges and ‘showing we care’ could help boost spirits as he looks to brighten flagging morale within the judiciary.
Giving evidence session to the House of Commons Justice Committee this morning Lord Burnett of Maldon said that, although judicial morale is low, ‘as soon as you begin talking to judges’ their mood improves.
Lord Burnett said he had travelled extensively around the jurisdiction. ‘I find there’s no substitute for meeting people and letting them see that we care deeply. If you talk to judges more positively about what they do they brighten up,’ he said.
His comments come against a backdrop of low morale within the judiciary. Committee member David Hanson MP (Labour) pointed out that according to the latest Judicial Attitudes Survey, just 2% of surveyed judges felt valued by the government.
Lord Burnett said there were many reasons to explain this, including remuneration issues and a lack of investment into the courts estate.
As well as working on both of those issues, he said he would be encouraging every judge to have annual discussions with ‘his or her leadership judge’. ‘This wouldn’t just be about promotion and remuneration but about what cases they work on and what they would like to do more of,’ Lord Burnett said.
He indicated that the judiciary would back the Senior Salaries Review Body’s recommendation that judges receive pay rises of up to 32%.
Elsewhere, Lord Burnett said hundreds of millions of pounds would be needed to begin to improve the ‘embarrassing’ state of the courts estate. Repeating the message in his annual report, he said it is ‘completely unreasonable’ to expect solicitors, judges and barristers to work in dilapidated and uncomfortable buildings.
The government, he said, needs to recognise we need ‘proper investment rather than sticking plaster’.
Lord Burnett, 60, was making his first appearance before the committee since taking over as lord chief justice in 2017 following the retirement of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.