Judges set to receive uncapped pensions
Pension packages may mirror MPs’
Judges and magistrates are set to receive uncapped pensions similar to retirement arrangements for parliamentarians, The Times has learnt.
This means retired judges and magistrates will receive two-thirds of their actual salary. Other pensioners receive two-thirds of an established threshold, set at a maximum of €21,000.
The details of its implementation are still being worked out but there is agreement in principle between the government and the judiciary, according to sources close to the judiciary.
This change, which would also apply to retired judges and magistrates, forms part of a package of reforms for the judiciary recently revealed by The Sunday Times.
The plan is to raise their retirement age from 65 to 68 and to implement more effective surveillance of their performance.
It would come alongside an agreed raise of €12,000 for all the members of the judiciary, staggered over three years, which means that, by 2015, a judge will be receiving a total package of about €62,500 while a magistrate will get just under €57,000.
However, it is not yet clear what this will translate to in terms of pension because a significant portion of this salary package is comprised of allowances, which are not taken into consideration for a pension.
A spokesman for Justice Minister Chris Said, who is leading the negotiations, would not confirm that an uncapped pension was on the cards but said the judiciary’s pension scheme was under discussion.
“The details will be announced once negotiations are over.
“You will appreciate that we cannot comment on matters that are still being discussed,” he said.
Currently, pensions are capped at a maximum income of €16,000 for those born before 1951 and about €21,000 for people born after 1962.
The capping is adjusted for the latter in line with cost of living and salary increases.
Irrespective of one’s income prior to retirement, the maximum pension people can expect to receive is two-thirds of the capped sum.
Parliamentarians, members of Cabinet and Speakers who would have served for five years, on the other hand, receive two-thirds of their average salary in these positions, without capping.
The reform comes as a long overdue shake-up that the government is hoping will address complaints about the efficiency of the judiciary.
From October 1, the courts will have a diary system through which all cases will be appointed and heard by a specific time and date.
Moreover, the judiciary’s watchdog, the Commission for the Administration of Justice, should be given new powers to censure judges and magistrates after facing consistent criticism for being toothless.
Some of the changes require the support of a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives. This means the government would require the opposition’s support.
When contacted, the Labour Party spokesman for justice, José Herrera said he felt he could not take a public stand on the proposed reform before the matter was discussed by the Parliamentary Group.
“I can confirm that the government has informed us of the discussions but we’ll have to discuss the matter internally before taking a position,” he said.
News of the salary increase comes after the Prime Minister announced similar improvements to the conditions of the Police Force.
Both issues were raised by rebel backbencher Franco Debono in his criticism of former Justice Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici.
Governments across Europe have had to face the challenge of making a judicial career attractive to lawyers who often have to abandon a more lucrative private practice.
But the changes also come amid growing concerns about the sustainability of the pension system.
Members of the judiciary in England and Wales only this year started contributing a small percentage of their £100,000-plus salaries into their retirement pots.
The change attracted criticism from the judiciary and the public, the former complaining that the contribution contravenes their contracts and the latter that the cost-cutting does not go far enough to reflect the sacrifice being made by the rest of the population in the recession.