Judges are routinely being brought out of retirement to hear civil cases so that active post-holders can be allocated to hear a rising tide of family cases, the lord chief justice said last week.
In comments that will further stoke debate over what many see as a recruitment crisis on the bench, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd told MPs: “One of the things I do – and it makes me uneasy – from time to time, is to authorise more and more people who are brought out of retirement to do work in civil cases, releasing full-time active judges to do family cases.”
The website Legal Voice reported that the he went on to tell the House of Commons justice committee: “I don’t think that’s right. But there isn’t a solution until we can grapple with bringing family work under better control.”
According to the report, Lord Thomas mooted three options for dealing with family cases, which have been badly affected by a reduction in the availability of legal aid: a restoration of legal aid funding; the creation of a scheme, on a Californian model, where an employed lawyer in court would advise parties; or increasing the involvement of organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.