Just 2 per cent of the judiciary feel that they are valued by the current government, with only half (51 per cent) believing that they are valued by the general public.
According to a report by UCL which surveyed the attitudes of all salaried judges in England and Wales, nearly two-thirds of judges (62 per cent) believed that they were now respected less by society at large than the judiciary was 10 years ago. Just 2 per cent believed that the general public had more respect for the judiciary than was the case 10 years ago.
Speaking at an event at the University of East London last night (11 February), the president of the UK Supreme Court Lord Neuberger said of the finding: “I think there is a degree of lack of understanding of the function of the courts and the judges by the government, and to be fair that can be a two-way process in terms of the judiciary not always understanding how the government works.
”I’m sorry that the figure is as low as 2 per cent, but if you told me that 98 per cent of judges felt valued by the government I would be worried, because I don’t think the function of the judiciary is to make the government feel comfortable. So 2 per cent is concerning but I think it’s understandable.
“I wouldn’t expect a very high proportion of judges to feel valued by the government and if there was I would be slightly concerned, but I would prefer the figure to be higher.”
Just 4 per cent of judges believed the media valued their role in society and only one third agreed that they were valued by the senior leadership of the judiciary.
Although many members of the judiciary felt unappreciated by these sectors, 97 per cent felt that they provided an important social service.
Judges felt more valued by the legal profession (73 per cent), the parties in cases (75 per cent), court staff (84 per cent) and each other (90 per cent).
The report painted a bleak picture of an unsatisfied judiciary. In answer to questions on whether policy changes had brought the judicial system to breaking point, 57 per cent of judges sitting in English and Welsh courts answered that it had. This figure fell to 32 per cent when tribunal judges were asked the same question.
A large quantity of judges said that they would discourage anybody from applying to be a judge. Their reasons for this statement varied from the likelihood of further pension reduction (76 per cent) to reduction in income (69 per cent) and constant policy changes (60 per cent).
Of the reasons that judges would encourage applicants to the judiciary, the chance to contribute to justice being done was the most popular (83 per cent), followed by the challenge of the work (80 per cent) and intellectual satisfaction (73 per cent). Prestige, pension and salary came bottom of the list with just 22 per cent, 20 per cent and 13 per cent of judges selecting these as valid reasons to encourage somebody to become a judge.