'Unappreciated' senior judges 'feel very unloved'
Senior judges feel unloved and their morale is at a low ebb, a leading judicial figure has said.
Sir Richard Aikens, who retired as a Court of Appeal judge in November, says senior judges do demanding work but get little thanks from ministers.
He says, in an interview with legal magazine Counsel, there may be a shortage of high-class candidates for senior judicial jobs in future.
"The biggest challenge for the English judiciary at present is the danger that there will not be enough high-class candidates for the higher judiciary in the future," Sir Richard told Counsel.
"Why is this a danger? Because successive Governments have taken it for granted that there will always be enough people of sufficient calibre who are willing to go to the Bench, despite the fact that the work is getting increasingly harder, there is much more pressure (on judges' independence apart from anything else), there is less and less support from administrative staff (because of staff and funding cuts) and there has been a cut in judicial pay of over 20% in real terms in the last five years.
"The very demanding work of the higher judiciary is done despite very little thanks or appreciation from either Government ministers or the higher civil service, who seem to hold the judges in poor regard."
He added: "In my experience, just before I retired, morale in the higher judiciary was at a very low ebb. They feel very unloved."
Sir Richard told the magazine that judges' holidays are not too long.
"I always spent a good part of my vacations writing reserved judgments or writing lectures I had agreed to give, or doing some report or some other administrative task that I had been asked to do," he said.
"Neither politicians, nor the senior civil service, nor the media or the general public appreciate what goes on when senior judges are not sitting in court.
"The sittings are only a comparatively small part of the work done by the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
"Judges are perhaps not very good at explaining this."