A former lord chancellor in Britain has told MPs that Increasing the judicial retirement age to 75 could improve diversity on the bench, and encourage more women and lawyers from ethnic-minority backgrounds to apply to become judges.
According to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales, Sir Robert Buckland (pictured) told the House of Commons earlier this week that increasing the mandatory retirement age by five years would present “a huge opportunity, not just for women but for people who come to the legal profession slightly later in their career”.
The retirement age for judges in Ireland is also currently 70.
Judiciary ‘losing talent’
Speaking at the second reading of the Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill, Buckland said that the current retirement age meant that the judiciary was losing “many talented men and women at the height of their career”.
He disagreed with the suggestion that raising the retirement age would negatively impact diversity, saying that “that worst-case scenario is based on a failure to act”.
“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,” Buckland added.
Concerns from Labour, Lib Dems
Sir Bob Neill, chair of the justice select committee, referred to “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”.
“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,” Neill added.
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine, however, raised concerns the change “could have a negative impact on the diversity of the judiciary, which now is dominated by older, white men”.
Labour’s Matt Rodda also asked the British government to provide further details on how it would ensure the increase did not “make it more difficult to increase diversity in our legal system”.