I thought the debate on longevity had been settled some time ago, but apparently not. I refer to the compulsory retirement of judges at the age of 70, when the rest of us, if so inclined, are sound enough in wind and limb to work on into our eighties. Pension benefits are now being geared to a longer working life, and employers are keeping on valuable and experienced staff for as long as they want to stay. It makes sense to everybody except Liz Truss.
The compulsory retirement of judges has been raised, yet again, and this time by Lord Neuberger, the outgoing President of the Supreme Court, who is 69 and as far as I can tell, as fit as a butcher’s dog. His mental acuity may not be a shoo-in, given his stance on Brexit, but that’s another story.
For those of you who can remember 1975, Lord Reid, that lion of the judiciary and a legend in his own lifetime, finally slipped off his wig and died. He was in harness almost to the last, and when he died, he was 85. Nobody suggested he was too old for the job, as he clearly wasn’t. Imagine if Lord Reid had been forced to retire at the age of 70, we would have been deprived of his intellect and ground breaking judgments for another 15 years.
That other lion of the judiciary was Lord Denning, arguably the outstanding judge of the second half of the twentieth century. When he hung up his wig, he was 83.
The Judicial Appointments Commission has reported that there are currently 25 high court, 140 circuit judge and 80 district judge vacancies that need to be filled, so forcing the present incumbents into early retirement is pure lunacy.
However, good news from Ms. Truss, as ever with her finger on the button: “The measure (to increase the retirement age) is not part of the Prison and Courts Bill. I have had discussions on this with the senior judiciary. We should certainly consider it in due course, but at the moment there is no consensus.”
I don’t want to be unkind to the floundering woman, but she is clearly out of her depth and needs to be put out of her misery. The same applies to the rest of us. The excitement is almost too much to bear.