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Court of Appeal finds government discriminated against younger judges

The Court of Appeal has today ruled that the Ministry of Justice discriminated against judges on the grounds of age, race and equal pay in relation to changes to their pension.

Posted on 20 December 2018

Law firm Leigh Day acts for approximately 230 judges who challenged the Government’s decision forcing younger judges to leave the Judicial Pension Scheme. 

They argued that this was discriminatory on the ground of age. Because of recent drives to increase diversity in the Judiciary, many more of those in the younger group of judges are female and/or from a BAME background, and so claims were also pursued for indirect race discrimination and a breach of the principle of equal pay.

In January 2017 the Employment Tribunal found that the Ministry of Justice and the Lord Chancellor had discriminated against younger judges and that this discrimination could not be justified. 

The Government appealed the ruling, but that appeal was dismissed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in January 2018. 

The Government then appealed to the Court of Appeal which today rejected the Government’s argument and confirmed the findings of the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal that the Ministry of Justice’s actions in requiring younger judges to leave the valuable Judicial Pension Scheme were unlawfully discriminatory.

The judgment is expected to have an impact on other public sector groups also being represented by Leigh Day who have seen similar changes to their pension schemes such as police officers. It also applies to other public sector workers such as those employed by the NHS, teachers and prison officers. 

Shubha Banerjee of Leigh Day solicitors, who is acting on behalf of the judges, said: “We are extremely pleased with today’s judgment which upholds our clients’ grave concerns about the discriminatory effect of the changes that a previous Lord Chancellor made to their pensions in 2015. 

“Many public sector workers including judges had been working towards and planning for their retirement based on membership of their former pension scheme, only for those plans to be completely disregarded once the Government’s discriminatory changes were brought in.

“We do hope that the Ministry of Justice will recognise the fact that three courts have now found its actions discriminatory and will now take steps to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”