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Speech by Lady Justice Sharp: In Sickness and in Health, Judicial welfare in England and Wales

There are, I suggest, several reasons for concentrating on Judicial Welfare, some of which are obvious, and some which are not.

First the obvious one. We owe it to ourselves, as colleagues, to support judges who are ill, or under stress, in a way which may affect their judicial performance.

Secondly, a great deal of time and public money is invested in appointing the most skilful and suitable judges through a rigorous public process; and it is in everyone’s interests to keep judges in good health, where possible, and in post. We are an invaluable resource. Judicial skills are not readily replaceable and a premium should be placed on retaining judges for the full period of their appointment, provided they can carry out the functions which their posts require of them.

Thirdly, there is the vexed question of age. Judicial appointments in England and Wales, particularly at the more senior level, tend to be taken up by people who have pursued a professional career for many years and who would normally expect to continue in post until retirement at 70.  Age does not merely bring wisdom, we hope, and a free bus pass; it carries with it unfortunately, an increased risk of ill health.

Fourthly, judges are not readily replaceable, whether for statutory or economic reasons or because of the time that the appointment process itself can take. And temporary appointments are not a serious or realistic option.

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