Monday, July 30, 2007

National shortage of judges

There is a national shortage of judges causing delays in criminal trials. I have already blogged elsewhere about how I would increase judges making justice faster.

The way I see it judges are just referees. They give out the punishments for criminals which have been found guilty. I would change it and make it so that the jury are the ones giving out the sentence too. Of course they wouldn’t give out the exact sentence. They would give a tariff. For arguments sake let’s say that there are 10 tariffs. These would be:

  1. Fine
  2. Non custodial (asbo, community service etc)
  3. 0-6 months prison
  4. 6 month – 2 years
  5. 2-5 years
  6. 5-10 years
  7. 10-20 years
  8. 25-40
  9. Life in prison
  10. Death

Those are just examples. It could be organised any way. Once a tariff has been chosen by the jury the judge then decides the exact sentence (between the tariff). Judges would lose their power and would be basically administrators or they would be referees even more than they are now. This would allow less qualified people to become judges and allow the government to lower wages to say around £13000 to £30,000 for ones with experience. This would lower court costs and allow us to double the number of judges that are needed making access to justice faster. The qualifications could mean that those who passed law at A Level could become judges.

Some of our present judges would still be needed for complicated trials like serious fraud and murder but we would split the court system into three – magistrates’ court, middle court, high court.

The magistrates’ court would still deal with petty crime where criminals would normally get 2 years or less in prison while the middle court would deal with everything except the serious crimes.

We would need a lot less of the type of judges we have now. According to this link there are 1305 professional judges (page 12) and magistrates in England and Wales. Unfortunately I don’t know how accurate it is but I will go by this number. I know that professional judges get paid £120,000 per year which means the total if we sacked them all we would save over £156 million. If we were to pay the new judges £13,000 per year and increased the number of them to 3,000 it would cost us £39 million which would be around 25% of the cost that we are paying now however once they have experience (about 20 years) that would rise to £30,000 however it is doubtful that they will be all on that much at the same time but let’s estimate that they are. It would still cost just £90 million compared to the £156 million.

We wouldn’t get rid of all the judges at first because at first the judges might need a bit of supervision. Let’s say we keep 150 of them on paying them £120,000. It would cost us an extra £18 million on top of the £39 million I estimate. This would still be a lot cheaper and we would have faster access to justice.

Any complaints, suggestions or ideas to do with this idea?

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