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Lifetime limit would be injustice to judges

Stewart Ritchie’s commen- tary in the October 27 edition was interesting, educational and erudite, as always. However, at this stage, it seems that the exemption for judges’ pensions from the lifetime limit is far from a done deal.

As amazing as it may seem to those who know me well, I believe that, of all public sector employees, judges are a unique and special case.

I am sure the majority of people will dismiss my view, as most people look on judges as a very small group who are perhaps the fattest of fat cats and not worth bothering with. This is, however, an injustice.

Those of you who deal with people in this field will know that, under current pension rules, they have certain privileges, such as not having their preserved benefits counted when calculating benefits in their final-salary scheme.

If they are not made an exception after A-Day, they will be subject to the same rules as everybody else and will be hit heavily by the lifetime limit. I hear cries of: “Who gives a damn?” However, the situation must be looked at in context.

These judges were all at one time eminent QCs earning, in most cases, well over 300,000 a year. For no doubt a variety of reasons – public spiritedness and a sense of duty, I am sure, among them – these people decided, on being offered a seat on the bench, to forego this level of self-employed income and, in many cases, took a pay drop of between 60 and 80 per cent. The quid pro quo was a fairly decent pension and the facility to keep that which they had put aside during their self-employed years.

I am certainly no lawyer but if they are caught by the lifetime limit, this might be construed as a breach of contract. Judges are not comparable with any other group. Civil servants, even at the top, have not given up hugely remunerative employment and taken a drop in pay to take up their position, nor have generals, admirals or air marshals.

I have no brief for any other people in the public sector and can concur whole-heartedly with Ritchie’s views. These members have all worked their way up and in the main now stand at the pinnacle of their earnings. Judges, on the other hand, are a special group and need to be considered as such.

Not for them the opportunities of those in corporations who can benefit from all manner of share options, golden hellos, golden goodbyes, loss of office compensation and so forth.

I find it grotesque that a small intermediary such as me has to plead the case for such eminent and vital members of the community. What is more depressing is that I am convinced that it will fall on deaf ears.

Harry Katz

Norwest Consultants,

Stanmore, Middlesex

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