Judges to face less severe pay reductions
Published 25/06/2011 | 05:00
SERVING judges will face pay cuts if the planned referendum is passed -- but they won't be as steep as previously thought.
Last night the Government moved to clarify confusion surrounding the cuts to be imposed on serving judges following the publication of new pay rates for incoming judges and other senior civil servants.
Earlier this week it was reported that incumbent senior judges (Supreme and High Court) will face pay cuts of nearly one third if the referendum on judicial remuneration is passed.
Serving circuit and district Court judges were reported to be facing cuts of some 25pc.
However, figures released to the Irish Independent last night reveal that existing senior judges' pay will be cut by 23.2pc and their junior colleagues will face pay cuts ranging between 16pc and 20pc -- if the referendum is passed.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform defended the lesser cuts, pointing out that judges have already taken a number of pay cuts. These new rates reflect pay reductions equivalent to that taken across the public sector, the pension levy plus an additional reduction of 10pc that has been applied to new entrants across the public sector, a spokesman said.
The steeper cuts, those of between 25pc and 31pc, will apply to new judges only, creating a two-tier payroll for the judiciary. However, any senior judges who are promoted will be subject to the revised lower pay rates. As judicial vacancies are infrequent, this means that it will take several years before the full costs savings are applied.
The judicial pay and pensions controversy has already impacted on senior lawyers who have shunned the prospect of becoming judges.
The Irish Independent has learned that several senior counsel who applied for two High Court judicial vacancies have recently withdrawn their applications following the publication of the planned cuts to judges pay and pensions.
"Subject to the passing of the referendum the application of these reductions would result in a range of reductions for incumbent judges of 16pc up to 23pc," said a spokesman for the department.
"Currently, provision is made by the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate voluntary reductions by judges to reflect the pension levy applied to public servants. This is an individual matter between members of the judiciary and the Revenue Commissioners."
The judiciary has largely accepted the reality of the new pay regime. But the new tax treatment of individual pension funds worth more than €2.3m -- which disproportionately affects any public servant or judge who built up a private pension prior to holding office -- has prompted fears that some senior judges experiencing financial difficulties may retire or seek an unprecedented return to private practice.