UCL Faculty of Laws


Professor Cheryl Thomas leads 2016 UK Judicial Attitude Survey

14 February 2017

The UCL Judicial Institute has conducted the second UK Judicial Attitude Survey (JAS) of all serving salaried judges in the United Kingdom about the reality of being a judge in every court and tribunal in the UK.  This longitudinal study, first run in 2014, was carried out by Professor Cheryl Thomas, Professor of Judicial Studies, Director of UCL Jury Project and Co-Director of the UCL Judicial Institute, at the request of the senior leadership of the judiciary in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The results show that virtually all UK judges have a deep commitment to their job despite strong levels of disenchantment with their working conditions, including a loss of income year on year, deteriorating conditions in court and increasing security concerns in and outside court.

Professor Cheryl Thomas said:

‘When UCL conducted the 2014 UK Judicial Attitude Survey, this provided the first empirical evidence on the working conditions of all salaried judges in the UK. Last year, the Senior Salary Review Body, which provides independent advice to government on salaries of public office holders, requested further evidence for its current investigations into judges’ pay, and I am very pleased that the UCL JI was able to assist the UK judiciary in delivering this important evidence.’

‘Now that the Judicial Attitude Survey has been run for a second time, there is clear evidence that fundamental changes have taken place in the working lives of judges in recent years. Most of these changes have negatively affected judges, such as deteriorating infrastructure in courts, loss of court staff, increased concerns for personal security alongside loss of earnings and adverse changes to pensions.’

‘The 2016 JAS also provides evidence that judicial diversity, a major policy supported by all governments over the last decade, may be in jeopardy as a result. The survey showed that very substantial numbers of judges are considering leaving the judiciary early in the next 5 years, and this includes large numbers of woman and ethnic minority judges recruited in recent years.’

‘The number of judges considering leaving the judiciary early is all the more surprising given the unique employment rules judges are bound by. Most people do not know that once a lawyer takes up a salaried judicial post he or she can never return to practicing law. This rule makes it especially difficult for judges to leave their job before they reach retirement age, but many now seem willing to do so even if it leaves them with limited employment options.’

‘The survey also revealed that many judges are finding it difficult to encourage suitable people to apply to join the judiciary due to poor working conditions. All of these findings highlight how the recent deterioration in judges’ working conditions is likely to have longer term implications for the future of the judiciary in this country.’

Read more about the 2016 Judicial Attitude Survey:

The Guardian 

The Times

The Law Society Gazette

Legal Cheek