1. The Select Committee which was constituted to consider whether the salaries, expense allowances and pensions of the judges and justices required to be increased and, if so, by what amounts reports as follows.
2. In considering the questions referred to it, the Committee had before it comprehensive memoranda from the judges of the Supreme Court, High Court and Circuit Court and the justices of the District Court seeking increases in their salaries and betterment of their pensions (see Appendices I, II and III). The Committee also considered representations for the revision of the pensions of retired District justices. In addition the Minister for Justice made available statistical and other information.
3. The Committee considered the question of summoning witnesses to give evidence before it and gave particular consideration to requests of the judges to be allowed to submit oral representations in support of their memoranda. It was decided that it would not be necessary to hear witnesses as the Committee was satisfied that it had available to it all the relevant information to enable it to come to decisions on the matters referred to it.
4. The matters coming within the purview of the Committee have been dealt with in the following three main sections (1), salaries, (2) expense allowances and (3) pensions.
5. The salaries paid to judges and justices prior to 1947 were governed by the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. These salaries were increased by sections 5 to 8 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1947, as follows:—
(a) Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court.
(i) In the case of each ordinary judge of the High Court—20%.
(ii) In every other case—15%.
(b) Circuit Judges.
Excluding the President of the Circuit Court, who receives the same annual salary as an ordinary Judge of the High Court—25%.
(c) Justices of the District Court.
In each case—30%.
Since 1947 there has been no increase in these salaries.
6. Having considered all the facts and the information before it the Committee is of opinion and recommends that the salaries should be increased by the following amounts:—
Justices of the District Court and ordinary judges of the Circuit Court, £450 ; the President of the Circuit Court and judges of the Supreme and High Courts, £250.
It also recommends that the increases be effective from the 1st day of April, 1952.
While it recommends these increased salaries the Committee feels that it must comment upon the average annual number of hours of duty on the bench by the judges and justices of each of the Courts. The average is low when it is considered that all the posts involved are wholetime. Chief causal factors in the opinion of the Committee are the traditional short day, short week and long summer vacation of the judiciary. To make for the more economic and expeditious administration of the law the Committee is of opinion that the Courts, where necessary, should sit for longer hours each day, that as far as possible each judge and justice should sit on five days each week and that the summer vacation should be shortened and that, as a corollary and where necessary, areas of jurisdiction should be regrouped.
7. The statutory authority for the payment of expenses to the judiciary is section 77 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936, which states:—
“There shall be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, to judges of the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Circuit Court, to justices of the District Court, and to Commissioners of the High Court on circuit such sums (in addition to remuneration) by way of recoupment of expenses incurred in travelling or otherwise for the purpose of the execution of their respective offices as the Minister for Justice, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, shall from time to time determine.”
The basis on which travelling expenses are paid to the various members of the Judiciary is as follows:—
Justices of the District Court.
8. Justices are allowed expenses which in general are the same as those applicable to public servants of the highest grade. They are also subject to the same general conditions and, in particular, to the condition which in other branches of the public service restricts the payment of travelling and subsistence allowances to occasions when the person concerned is necessarily absent on duty away from headquarters. Thus, a justice is not allowed any expenses for attending the court in his district which is regarded as his headquarters or centre (usually the principal court town), but only such expenses as are necessarily incurred in travelling between his headquarters and the other courts in his district; and it is from his headquarters that his travelling is measured. In other words, justices, like other public servants, are expected to get to, and to maintain themselves at, their place of business or principal place of business at their own expense. The rule with respect to travelling expenses is relaxed in the case of justices to permit of their being paid expenses for the use of their private cars on journeys for which public transport might have been used at less expense to the State. For reasons of convenience, justices who are willing to accept annual or commuted allowances are paid such allowances instead of being recouped the expenses of individual journeys as they occur. These allowances which are based on an estimate of the travelling to be done, are calculated in accordance with the authorised scales and conditions.
Judges of the Circuit Court.
9. A judge of the Circuit Court receives allowances similar to those granted to justices, but with the following additional concessions. An allowance is granted to cover the cost of a private sitting room and in the case of a prolonged stay in a particular place there is no reduction in the rate of the basic subsistence allowance, which, as in the case of the justices, is the highest rate payable in the public service. As regards travelling, if he lives in Dublin he is allowed the cost of travelling between Dublin and his circuit, i.e., Dublin is regarded as his headquarters. In addition, if he uses his own car for travelling, he is allowed the expenses, though at an abated rate, of returning home at week-ends irrespective of whether or not this is more costly to the State. He is also allowed the additional travelling expenses involved by staying at a town other than the town at which the court he is attending is sitting if good reason is shown.
Judges of the High and Supreme Courts.
10. The only official travelling a judge of the Supreme or High Court has to do arises out of his assignment to preside at the sittings of the High Court on circuit. The High Court goes on circuit throughout the country twice a year in March and July. The judges and their criers are provided with accommodation (in lodgings reserved for the purpose or in hotels) and meals at the expense of the State and are therefore allowed nothing for subsistence. In addition each judge receives an allowance of £50 when going out on circuit to cover the special expenses of himself and his crier. This allowance is paid irrespective of the time required to complete the business of the circuit and a further sum may be granted up to a maximum of £100 in all if the judge certifies that the sum of £50 was not sufficient to meet his expenses.
11. (i)As regards the question of travelling expenses in general, the Committee is of opinion that judges and justices should be entitled to receive, in addition to their salaries, such allowances as the Minister for Justice, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, considers to be necessary for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the judges and justices in the execution of their respective offices and that the question as to whether it was necessary for a judge or justice in a given case to incur expenditure on a particular item or of a particular amount is one that ought to be left to the Minister for Justice, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to determine.
(ii) The Committee is of opinion that it is reasonable to expect a justice to travel to and from and maintain himself at the principal court town in his district at his own expense. It accordingly recommends the maintenance of the present practice which is set out in paragraph 8.
(iii) The Committee considers that it is reasonable to expect a judge of the Circuit Court, the business of whose court requires him to be away from home overnight, to put up at the town where his court is sitting and that the State ought not to be put to extra expense if he stays in some other place to suit his taste or convenience. It accordingly recommends that a Circuit Judge who puts up at a town or place which is not the town or place where his court is sitting should not receive any allowance to defray the expenses of travelling to and from the town where the court is sitting and the place where he is staying unless he satisfies the Minister for Justice that there is no suitable accommodation available in the court town or at any place nearer to the court town than the place where he has actually put up.
(iv) With regard to the expenses of the High Court judges on circuit, it seems to the Committee that the time has come to terminate the existing arrangement whereby there is cast on the County Registrars the duty of procuring lodgings for the judges in private houses at State expense. The system of paying for lodgings which was revived on the coming into operation of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936, was introduced in Ireland in the year 1804 when hotel accommodation was limited even in cities and probably non-existent in some of the assize towns. In these circumstances it may have been right and proper from a public point of view that the necessary accommodation for judges should have been found in private lodgings but as these could only now be provided at a disproportionate cost to the State the Committee considers that the present day needs of judges, including the need for a reasonable degree of privacy, can reasonably be secured by the judges themselves. The Committee therefore recommends that section 44 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936, be repealed and that there be paid to each judge of the High Court on circuit in respect of every day’s absence on circuit a daily allowance sufficient to cover the cost of providing suitable hotel accommodation and meals for the judge and his crier. The Committee further recommends that the present practice of making a lump sum payment to cover the special expenses of the judge and his crier should be continued.
12. The pension terms on which judges and justices retire are detailed in the following paragraphs.
Judges of the Supreme, High and Circuit Courts.
13. The Courts of Justice Act, 1924, provides that judges retiring after 15 or more years’ service are entitled to pensions of two-thirds salary. A pension is also granted on retirement owing to age or permanent infirmity after 5 or more years’ service but less than 15 years’ service, the amount being one-sixth of salary plus one-twentieth for every completed year of service in excess of 5 years.
14. Judges of the Supreme and High Courts are required to retire on attaining the age of 72 years as are judges of the Circuit Court appointed prior to 12th July, 1947. Judges of the Circuit Court appointed since that date have, under the Courts of Justice Act, 1947, to retire on attaining the age of 70 years.
15. After 15 years’ service, and irrespective of age, a judge can retire, when he wishes, on full pension.
Justices of the District Court.
16. Pension provisions for District Justices are more complicated. Prior to 1936 all District Justices, subject to their having been in good health at the date of their appointment, were pensionable in accordance with the Superannuation Acts, i.e., they had the same pension rights as civil servants. Pensions on this basis would amount to one-eightieth of salary for each completed year of service subject to a maximum of forty-eightieths together with a gratuity (lump sum payment) calculated on the basis of one-thirtieth of salary for each completed year of service subject to a maximum of forty-five thirtieths. If a justice died in office his legal personal representative would be entitled to be paid a gratuity equivalent to one year’s salary or, if his service was over thirty years, a gratuity calculated on the basis of one-thirtieth of salary for each completed year of service subject to a maximum of forty-five thirtieths.
17. The Courts of Justice Act, 1936, gave actuarially better terms. Under this Act a pension of two-thirds salary is awardable after thirty or more years’ service. A pension is also granted on retirement owing to age or permanent infirmity after 10 or more years’ service but less than 30 years’ service and amounts to one-sixth of salary plus one-fortieth for every completed year of service in excess of 10 years’ service. Justices who were in office at the passing of the Act of 1936 can elect to retain their pension rights under the Superannuation Acts. As a measure of compensation for foregoing the actuarially better terms of the Act of 1936 such Justices who so elect are entitled to a ten per cent. increase on the pension that would otherwise be granted to them subject to the proviso that the total pension does not exceed one half of salary.
18. The Courts of Justice (District Court) Act, 1946, as modified by the Courts of Justice (District Court) Act, 1949, determines the age of retirement of justices. In the case of a person who, prior to 29th July, 1946, was a Dublin Metropolitan Justice or the Justices permanently assigned to the District which includes the city of Cork, the age of retirement is 70; in other cases it is 65. The Act of 1949 set up a Committee consisting of the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court and the Attorney General with power to continue in office from year to year up to the age of 70 a justice whose retirement age is 65.
Justices of the District Court.
19. (i)Under the Act of 1924 the minimum qualification for appointment as a District Justice is six years’ standing as a practising barrister or solicitor. It must not be forgotten, however, that when this period of six years was decided on District Courts as set up were a recent departure and it was necessary to recruit a large number of District Justices. The Committee is of opinion that in present circumstances this minimum qualification period should be extended to ten years.
(ii) The effect of the preceding recommendation will be to strengthen the tendency to appoint men who are on average in their early forties. The Committee accordingly considers that a pension scheme requiring thirty years’ service before a maximum pension is awardable would be inappropriate, as the majority of justices appointed would not become eligible for the maximum pension. Subject to (iv) of this paragraph, it recommends that justices of the District Court be awarded pensions on the same principles as those covering pensions applicable to judges of the Circuit and superior courts.
(iii) The Committee fully considered the representations for the revision of pensions of retired District Justices and decided not to make any recommendation.
(iv) Careful consideration has been given to the pensions system which the judges at present enjoy. Having regard to the status of the judiciary, however, and to the age at which appointments are made, the Committee considers that the system is reasonable and satisfactory with the exception of one point, namely, that at present a judge who is fit and capable of performing the duties of his post and who has completed fifteen years’ service can retire irrespective of age with full pension. It therefore recommends that each judge and justice appointed in the future should not be entitled to pension until he has reached the age of sixty-five years unless ill-health or other incapacity renders earlier retiral necessary. If recommendation (ii) of this paragraph becomes operative all justices who opt for its benefit, in addition to future appointees, should also be subject to this rule.
The Committee also recommends that a judge or justice who resigns before the age of sixty-five on grounds of ill-health or other incapacity and who subsequently recovers, should, if he is still below that age and if the Government thinks fit, be required to return to duty.
(v) It will be noted that in each of the memoranda presented to the Committee the suggestion was put forward that provision should be made for pensions for the widows and orphans of judges and justices. Having considered the matter fully the Committee decided not to make any recommendation.
SEÁN Ó LOINSIGH,
23rd April, 1953.