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Tag Archives: O’Brien v Ministry of Justice

O’Brien loses Court of Appeal case on judicial pensions backdating

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For latest Supreme Court update on O’Brien, see the note at the end of this piece regarding the reference to the European Court of Justice

A part-time  judge who has been battling for himself (and colleagues) to receive pensions has lost a case that could have established pension payments would be backdated to cover all their years of work. Instead the Court of Appeal ruled there will be a cut-off at April 2000, when the European Part Time Workers Directive (PTWD) (97/81/EC) was transposed into UK law.

The basis of Dermod O’Brien’s substantive case was that failure to pay pensions to fee-paid judges and tribunal chairs was unlawful discrimination under the Directive. Following earlier litigation (see O’Brien v MoJ 2013) that established Recorders such as O’Brien should receive pensions, the government has agreed to institute pensions for other fee-paid judicial offices too (see Fee-paid judicial cases: update 3 pdf). These were to be backdated to 7 April 2000 with a new scheme from April 2015 (see Consultation for details).

The Court of Appeal case (O’Brien v MoJ [2015] EWCA Civ 1000) concerned how far pension entitlement should be backdated. Lawyers for O’Brien (and in effect any other fee-paid judicial officers in similar positions) argued that the pension provision should take into account periods of service before the Directive entered into force. He had worked as a Recorder between 1978 and 2005.

But as far as Lord Justice Lewison was concerned this would offend against the the principle that legislation should not be retroactive: “EU legislation does not have retroactive effect unless, exceptionally, it is clear from its terms or general scheme that the legislator intended such an effect, that the purpose to be achieved so requires and that the legitimate expectations of those concerned are duly respected.” Read the rest of this entry

Judicial pensions and O’Brien: MoJ retreats before the little army of part-time judges

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In these straitened times the Government is cutting off legal avenues to almost everyone, hence denying the crumbs and scrapings of bread and butter this meant to all but those starry City law firms. Now the Ministry of Justice has moved swiftly to block another handy source of minor revenues to lawyers – and to avoid a costly bust-up with members of its own judiciary.

The litigants in this case would have been that oppressed and misunderstood minority, not quite in the newly defined precariat class, but certainly living on the margins of society and needing someone to stand up for them.

They are the little army of part-time fee-paid judges, recorders, tribunal chairs, adjudicators and assessors who keep the wheels of grassroots British justice running smoothly.

What was in prospect was that hundreds of well-shod, sensibly suited, grey-headed or blue-rinsed judges, recorders, tribunal chairs etc would have marched on some of those very same tribunals wildly waving their writs containing their revolutionary demands.

What do they want? Pensions. When do they want them? Now would be nice, backdated if possible, please.

Their case is pretty unimpeachable. The UK Supreme Court has ruled in O’Brien v MoJ that the exclusion of fee-paid Recorders from the judicial pensions scheme was discriminatory against part-time workers under EU equal treatment regulations. It follows that all other judicial fee-paid part-timers have (prima facie) similarly been discriminated against.

The only issue was whether the part-time judges, tribunal chairs, adjudicators etc would have to divert themselves from their important labours to bang in their claim forms before they were time-barred – thus clogging up the Employment Tribunal system and requiring the payment of more judges, tribunal chairs, etc to clear the backlog. Vicious circle, you see. Read the rest of this entry

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