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High Court Judges

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 25 November 2009

Following discussions with the current Lord Chief Justice and an evaluation of the current workload pressures on the High Court Bench I have agreed that it is now appropriate to accede to the Lord Chief Justice’s recent request for the 108th High Court Judge post to be filled.

On 9 and 12 June 2008 the House of Commons and the House of Lords respectively debated an Order in Council relating to an increase in the number of Lords Justice of Appeal. The purpose of that order was to allow for an increase of one Lord Justice to enable the Chair of the Law Commission to be of that rank rather than a High Court Judge as had been the case. To offset the additional costs I had agreed with the then Lord Chief Justice that we would leave vacant the 108th statutorily available High Court Judge post. Assurances were given to both Houses that the cost of this decision was simply the difference between the annual salary cost of a High Court Judge and that of a Lord Justice. Additionally, in response to a specific question raised in the House of Lords, an assurance was given that the decision to leave the 108th High Court Judge post vacant would not cause uncontainable work pressures on the remainder of the High Court Bench.

Workload across all three divisions of the High Court has since increased significantly. Family division work has increased by 10 per cent., Chancery by 30 per cent. and Queen’s Bench by just under 8.5 per cent. In addition there has been an increase in the number of long cases which has an additional impact on lengthening waiting times. I am satisfied that now is the time to increase the size of the High Court Bench to help contain this increased workload.

The annual cost of this additional High Court Judge will be £249,000 (including National Insurance and pension contributions) and will be contained within existing budgets, mainly through the reduction of deputy sitting days.