Judges are warning that they will go back to being practising lawyers because their pensions are to be cut by more than a third, the Gazette has learned.

Full-time judges are barred from legal practice while in post. Their terms of service add that the lord chancellor regards a judgeship as a lifetime appointment and that there is an ‘understanding’ they will not return to practice.

But the lord chief justice Lord Judge is reported to have told the review body on senior salaries that judges are prepared to defy this understanding if their pensions are reduced.

Actuarial evidence shows judges would see a cut in pension benefits of between 34% and 46% if the planned changes go ahead after April 2015.

In his evidence to the review body, Judge expressed concern that ‘by making it harder to recruit the best judges, the changes could affect the quality of the justice system, including its ability to attract international business’.