The government will face a quandary in the coming weeks over judicial pay after a report recommended a significant uplift in salaries for senior judges. According to a letter leaked to the Daily Mail, the Senior Salaries Review Body has proposed increasing High Court judges’ annual earnings by 32% to £240,000. 

Gross pay for a circuit judge should rise 22% to £165,000, while district judges should receive an 8% rise to £117,000, the review reportedly states. 

The review, which closed in May, was commissioned by the government to address long-standing concerns about judicial recruitment and retention. But the Mail’s article – entitled ‘Where is the justice?’ - suggests how the public may respond. 

The Ministry of Justice has yet to comment on the leaked letter or the proposed figures, but a source close to justice secretary David Gauke was reported as saying the any increase is ‘likely to be closer to 2% than 32%’. 

The review body told the lord chief justice and other heads of the UK judiciary in June 2017 that it would seek data on how judges’ previous earnings compared with salaries on the bench. The key problem was the growing disparity between what could be made as a judge and what lawyers could earn continuing in private practice.  The review’s terms of reference were ‘to look fundamentally at the pay structure, taking into account judicial recruitment in the light of the external market, retention and motivation.’  

The Ministry of Justice told the body in March that judicial morale was low and that one in three judges were considering resigning, adding: ‘Pay and pensions are key factors as well as increased workloads, stressful working conditions and demands for out of hours work. We need an attractive pay structure focused on senior levels in the judiciary.’