Raising the judicial retirement age to 75 could enhance diversity on the bench and motivate more women and lawyers from ethnic minority backgrounds become judges, a former lord chancellor has stated.
Sir Robert Buckland MP shared with the House of Commons that raising the mandatory retirement age by five years would offer ‘a huge opportunity, not just for women but for people who come to the legal profession slightly later in their career’.
Discussing at the second reading of the Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill on Wednesday, Buckland said that the current retirement age meant the judiciary was failing to take advantage of ‘many talented men and women at the height of their career’.
Buckland stated he disputed the suggestion that increasing the retirement age would create a negative impact, stating ‘that worst-case scenario is based on a failure to act’. The raise ‘could be a spur to the Government and the Judicial Appointments Commission to do even more to attract women, people from an ethnic minority, and people who join the profession late to a judicial career’, he told MPs.
Buckland added ‘it is incumbent on the Ministry of Justice, the Judicial Appointments Commission and others interested in and passionate about diversity to do more to attract people of diversity to the judiciary,’
Chair of the justice select committee, Sir Bob Neill, detailed there was ‘a number of distinguished former members of the High Court and the Supreme Court who have had to retire at 70, with many years of service still to give, and still do so, often sitting as arbitrators in important areas of commercial litigation and mediation’.
Neill further stated that ‘we do need to make the judiciary more diverse and more representative, but the way to do that is not to keep down the retirement age to such a low level that able people are needlessly lost to judicial service.’
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine, however, highlighted concerns that the change ‘could have a negative impact on the diversity of the judiciary, which at the moment is dominated by older, white men’, so did Labour’s Matt Rodda, who questioned the government to offer additional details on how it would ensure the raise did not ‘make it more difficult to increase diversity in our legal system’.
The chief secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke stated that the government’s modelling proposed that increasing the retirement age would ‘retain about 400 judges and 2,000 magistrates per year’.