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European Court rules that part-time judges are entitled to pension

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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that part time judges ought to be entitled to a pension. The case was brought by Dermod O’Brien QC who sat as a recorder judge for 27 years. He was denied a pension upon his retirement in 2005.

In making their judgement the court said the only way that it could be lawful to deny such pensions was if the relationship between the judge and the Ministry of Justice, responsible for their appointment, was “by its nature substantially different from that between employers and their employees falling under the category of workers.” Referring to the protections afforded in EU law to part-time workers, the court went on to explain that “a member state cannot remove at will certain categories of persons from the protection offered by that directive and the Framework Agreement on part-time work”.

The Court concluded that the nature of judicial office was not of itself enough to prevent part-time judges from enjoying the same protections offered under the relevant EU directive. The ECJ went on to list the factors which could be considered by the UK Supreme Court as sufficient to exclude a person from such protection.
The Court also drew on the fact that a barrister who sits as a judge may retain the right to practice law as a barrister but this did not deny him or her from the other rights associated with their judicial position, for example maternity or sick pay. The Court concluded that they were in a “comparable position” to full time judges.

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Written by Andrew Hodges

April 3, 2012 at 8:37 am