Committee Reports::Report and Proceedings - Judicial Salaries, Expense Allowances and Pensions::23 April, 1953::Appendix


Memorandum in Support of the Claim of the Judges of the Circuit Court for Increased Remuneration.

I. Principles on which Judges’ Salaries are Fixed may be Summarised as Follows:

(a) The salary must be sufficiently high to attract men of high standing in their profession by ensuring that they do not suffer an undue loss of income in accepting judicial office.

(b) Regard should be had to the salaries and position of comparable offices.

(c) In the case of Courts of limited jurisdiction regard should be had to any extension of such jurisdiction.

(d) Regard should be had to any alteration in the purchasing power and to the fact that as Judges’ salaries can only be altered by legislation the amount should be so fixed that any fall in the purchasing power of money will not cause undue hardship.

(e) Regard should be had to the standing of the office in the community and to the extent the officer plays in the life of the people. It should be such as will enable him to keep his independence and maintain the position which is expected of him.

All these principles appear in the debate on the salaries in Dáil Éireann in 1923 and 1924 either by express mention or implication.

II. The Position of the County Courts before the Courts of Justice Act, 1924:

Prior to 1924 the County Court exercised the following jurisdiction:

Contract and Tort (excluding libel, slander, Breach of Promise and Criminal Conversation) up to £50. Equity Cases and Probate Actions where the personalty did not exceed £500 and the Poor Law Valuation did not exceed £30.

Actions on the Title where the lands did not exceed £30 and similarly Ejectments: a limited jurisdiction in crime.

These Courts were administered by five Recorders and twelve County Court Judges. The Recorders were for the Boroughs and were also County Court Judges for the County in which the Borough was. Their salaries were:


Recorder for the Borough of Dublin and County



Court Judge of Dublin







Recorder of Belfast and County Court Judge of












Recorder of Cork and County Court Judge for



the East Riding of Cork






Recorder of Galway and County Court Judge of












Recorder of Londonderry and County Court



Judge of Londonderry







Twelve County Court Judges not Recorders



III. The Effect of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924.

The Courts of Justice Act, 1924, abolished the County Courts and set up the Circuit Court with the following jurisdiction:

Contract and Tort (except Criminal Conversation) up to £300: Equity Cases and Probate Actions where the personalty did not exceed £1,000 and the Poor Law Valuation of the lands did not exceed £60.

Title Actions and Ejectments where the Poor Law Valuation did not exceed £60.

Jurisdiction in all felonies and misdemeanours save murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy to murder, high treason, treason felony and piracy.

The Circuit Court Bench now consists of ten Judges. The Statute originally provided for eight Judges. The increase followed certain Statutory Provisions.

All Judges except the President are on the same salary. It was originally fixed at £1,700, now standing at £2,125.

The debate on the salary of £1,700 is to be found in Vol 5 of the Dáil Éireann Debate, Col. 1283 et sequitur. It may be summarised as follows:

The Minister for Finance moved a Section fixing the salary of a Circuit Judge at £1,500 per annum with a cost of living bonus thereon calculated at the rate for the time being applicable to the case of a Civil Servant in receipt of a similar basic salary.

The President of the Executive Council suggested that as these were the only judicial salaries so calculated it would be better to have a fixed salary and the figure of £1,700 was suggested. The Minister for Finance further stated that in his opinion the cost of living would not fall much below the suggested figure for a long time. The £1,700 figure was then accepted.

During the course of the debate on Ministers’ salaries in the same year the Minister for Finance in suggesting the figure of £1,700 said:

“If you are going to have big affairs conducted rightly you must have men of ability and if you are to have men of ability you have to pay them. I do not think you can reduce them and there is the fact that even at present you would have Ministers with actual salaries less than the heads of Departments. I think this is entirely wrong and should not be adopted by the Dáil.”

(See Dáil Debates, Vol. 5, Col. 1509 et sequitur.)

This extract is cited in support of the submission that it was always contemplated that Circuit Judges should have salaries not less than the heads of Departments.

The reason for the change from a salary of £1,500 with cost of living bonus to a fixed salary was not to reduce the Judges’ salary but to stabilise it at a figure which would represent £1,500 and cost of living bonus for a long period thereby contemplating an increase in salary when fluctuation in the value of money would justify it.

In the events that have happened the change to a fixed £1,700 per annum instead of £1,500 and cost of living bonus was an unfortunate one for the Circuit Judges. If this change had not been made the salary would now be £2,856.

IV. The Position of Civil Servants Referred to in Dail Debates Vol. 5, Col. 1283 and Col. 1509.

In 1924 the Secretaries and heads of some Departments had a basic salary together with a cost of living bonus of £226. In 1926 and 1927 this Bonus rose to £239 10s. and in 1929 it fell to £206 6s. Their salaries, therefore, rose at early period slightly above that of a Circuit Judge and then fell a little. By virtue of the adjustments which were made in 1951, the Civil Servants who in 1924 had a salary of £1,500 and cost of living bonus have been in receipt of an inclusive yearly salary of £2,856 since 15th January, 1951.

These above are the comparable officers in the Civil Service as at the passing of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. The comparison originally intended and provided for has ceased, thereby County Registrars the head officials of the Circuit Courts have had substantial increases. The exact figures are not available but since 15th January, 1951 some County Registrars enjoy salaries practically equivalent to and if not higher than the present salaries of Circuit Judges.

It is relevant that the salaries of Civil Servants can be adjusted periodically to meet changes in the cost of living. Judges’ salaries can be changed only by legislation, and it is desirable that this principle should continue. As the enactment of any legislation is necessarily a slow process it is suggested that any increase in the salaries of Judges should be adequate to provide against all contingencies and in particular against the delays and difficulties inherent in the consideration of claims of this kind.

V. The Present Position of County Court Judges in Northern Ireland.

Whilst it is appreciated fully that the Committee will deal with this question on the circumstances applicable to this country, it is suggested that the remuneration and position of the County Court Judges in Northern Ireland merit consideration.

(1) The jurisdiction of the Recorders and County Court Judges is considerably less than the present jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. In Contract and Tort the jurisdiction is limited to £100. There is no jurisdiction in libel, slander, breach of promise and criminal conversation.

The Recorder of Belfast with that jurisdiction is now paid £3,000 annually. The Recorder of Derry and the other County Court Judges have got increases of £1,100 on the basic salary of £1,400 provided for in the County Court Act of 1877, an increase of 78.7%. In addition these Judges have now the advantage of a Contributory Pension Scheme. It is understood that it is much appreciated. This is dealt with subsequently herein.

VI. Extension of Jurisdiction.

Under the Bill awaiting second reading it is proposed to extend the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court by doubling the limit fixed in the Courts of Justice Act, 1924, and as it exists at present.

This increase will inevitably increase the volume of work originating in the Circuit Court. It has a definite potentiality of adding substantially to the number of Civil Jury Actions. It will also transfer to the Circuit Court certain types of cases such as the construction of wills involving legal issues which were hitherto dealt with by the High Court. The projected increase in jurisdiction of the District Court will remove a certain amount of the work which hitherto originated in the Circuit Court. It will be the less important work. Nevertheless any reduction will be offset to some if not to a great extent by an increase in the number of appeals from the District Court. At present in some areas there has been a very distinct increase in Criminal Appeals by reason of recent legislation.

VII. The Effect of Taxation on any Increase.

It is suggested that the effect of taxation on salaries should not be disregarded. Income Tax is deducted at the source and Sur Tax is also so deducted in some cases by arrangement.

VIII. The Position of a Circuit Judge.

By reason of his office a Circuit Judge is expected to maintain a certain standard. His present remuneration makes it difficult to provide for dependents. The present provisions for pensions to a retired Judge are inadequate. No pension is payable to a Judge who retires before he has served five years. A judge who may be compelled to retire from infirmity may have to do so on a very scanty pension. Pensions are only payable at the rate of one sixth of his salary for five years completed service with an addition of one twentieth of his salary for every other completed year of service provided that in no case should the pension exceed two thirds of his salary. If a Judge dies before retiring or after retiring his widow and dependents receive nothing.

The position in England and in Northern Ireland was somewhat similar until the British Act of 1950 and the Northern Ireland Act of 1951. The former deals with a variety of officials including the Northern High Court Judges who are British appointees. The Northern Ireland Act deals only with County Court Judges.

The text of the Acts are substantially the same, and the benefits are substantially the same.

The basis of both schemes is that they are contributory. Both provide (1) that when a Judge on retirement becomes eligible for a pension he may be granted a lump sum equal to twice the amount of the pension; (2) that if a Judge dies during his service and would be entitled to a pension if he had retired on ground of infirmity his legal personal representative may be granted a lump sum equal to (a) twice the annual amount of the pension for which he had been so eligible, or (b) his last annual salary whichever is the greater.

Thirdly there is a provision that where a person on retirement becomes eligible for a pension but dies so soon after that the sums paid on account of his pension plus twice the annual amount of the pension fall short of his last annual salary, his legal personal representative may be paid the difference.

In respect of the above provision the pension is reduced by one fourth.

Provision is made for widows’ and childrens’ pensions. Summarised it is as follows:

On the death of a person who

(a) had become eligible for a pension for service;

(b) was serving at the time of his death and would if he had then retired on the grounds of permanent infirmity have become eligible for a pension for such service

there may be granted in respect of his service

(1) where he leaves a widow “a widows pension.”

(2) a pension for the benefit of the children of the marriage.

The widows pension may be one third of the annual amount of the personal pension. The childrens pension is for children under sixteen or being instructed full time or full time apprentices.

The date of pension may vary according to the number of children and is payable as the Treasury or Minister for Finance may decide.

There shall be a contribution towards the list of the liabilities under the Act for the benefit of a man’s wife and children equal to the amount of a personal pension.

The Northern Ireland Act further makes provision in respect of County Court Judges that any Judge who has to retire on age limit at 72 before fifteen years’ service may be extended until he reaches fifteen years’ service or until seventy five whichever is the first.

Both Statutes provide Pension qualifications different from the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. In England the following qualifications are prescribed for High Court Judges and others.

Less than five years


six fortieths of salary.

„ „ six years


ten fortieths of salary.

and then one fortieth extra for every year up to fifteen when it remains stationary at twenty fortieths.

For County Court Judges in Northern Ireland:

Less than five years


six thirtieths of salary.

„ „ six years


ten thirtieths of salary.

and one thirtieth increase for each year up to fifteen when it remains stationary at twenty thirtieths.

IX. Expenses.

The Judges of the Circuit Court are not dissatisfied with the present arrangement for expenses. In saying so they understand that a small increase is contemplated in the existing allowances both for travelling and maintenance by reason of the increased costs of travel and hotel charges. They believe that the proposal in the Bill will work out satisfactorily if those rates are continued as basic. No allowance for travel is made to Dublin Circuit Judges. Allowance is made in the other Circuits for travel from the Judges lodgings. The Judges submit that in the

case of Dublin special consideration should be given. They feel that the work at the Dublin Circuit Court infringes so much and in such a variety of ways on the life and affairs of the people of the City and County that apart from any other questions it is very undesirable that the Judges should go to Court by public transport. A car is virtually a necessity in these times and circumstances. Accordingly the Select Committee is asked to consider the propriety of an allowance for travel by car from their residences to Court to the Dublin Circuit Judges and to deal with it in such a way as it thinks proper.

X. Submissions and Suggestions.

(1) In the circumstances it is submitted that the salary of a Circuit Judge should be fixed at a figure not less than £2,856. It is suggested that to provide for contingencies a sum of £3,000 per annum and that the new salary should be from the same date as that fixed for the comparable officers.

(2) That Section 41 of the Courts of Justice Act should be amended so as to enable the Minister for Justice with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance to award a pension not exceeding two thirds of his salary to any Judge who has to retire through age or infirmity before completing fifteen years’ service.

(3) That legislation be introduced to provide for Pension on the lines of the legislation in Great Britain and Northern Ireland with the qualification for pension as in the Northern Ireland Pensions Act of 1951.




On behalf of the Judges of the Circuit Court.