The Ministry of Justice has begun consulting on proposals that could lead to judges retiring at 75 instead of 70.
Lord chancellor Robert Buckland said the retirement age for most judges was last legislated for 27 years ago. He said the time was now right to consider whether 70 as a mandatory retirement age continued to achieve the objective of balancing the requirement for sufficient judicial expertise to meet the demands of the courts and tribunals, improving diversity and protecting the judiciary’s independence.
The consultation paper proposes three options: raise the mandatory retirement age to 72 or 75; and allow magistrates’ appointments to be extended beyond the current mandatory retirement age.
The ministry says raising the retirement age to 72 could retain an average of 245 judicial office holders per year, which is equivalent to one quarter of the current recruitment programme. The same retirement age for magistrates could retain around 1,056 magistrates a year, which represents 7% of the current headcount.
Raising the retirement age to 75 could retain an average of 399 judicial office holders a year. Doing the same for magistrates could retain around 2,122 magistrates a year.
The ministry is also seeking views on whether the policy to allow a judge’s appointment to extend past the mandatory retirement age should be retained if the retirement age increases. The department thinks judges should sit beyond 75 only in exceptional circusmtances.
However, the ministry says allowing magistrates’ appointments to be extended past 70 could help to retain skilled and experienced magistrates for longer, especially in areas experiencing shortages while new magistrates are being recruited. ‘This in turn would maintain magistrates’ capacity and promote access to justice by timely disposal of cases in the relevant courts,’ the consultation paper says.
The consultation closes on 16 October.