Earlier this month I informed His Majesty The King of my intention to retire from the office of Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and Head of the Judiciary on 30 September 2023. I was appointed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 1 October 2017. I will by then have completed six years in office, more than any of my predecessors since Lord Lane in the 1980s.
When I was appointed, I thought that serving for around six years was probably realistic given the additional responsibility that the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 placed on the Lord Chief Justice of the day. I made my final decision on the timing many months ago.
It has been a great privilege to serve as Lord Chief Justice. I have been honoured to lead a wholly independent judiciary dedicated to the rule of law, the administration of justice and public service which confidently celebrates its traditions yet has quietly assimilated very many modern working practices. We have transformed judicial welfare and education and introduced professional support which was lacking in the old arrangements inherited from the Lord Chancellor’s Department by the Judicial Office. We have become much more active in local communities and schools and have a diversity and inclusion strategy which will continue to deliver results.
In a period of some instability, COVID presented the greatest challenge which any of us has faced in recent memory. The judicial response to the emergency was magnificent and the close working relationship which developed between judges, the Ministry of Justice and its ministers, and staff in the courts and tribunals showed what can be done. All rose to the challenge. The pandemic brought our work on modernisation into sharp relief and has resulted in the use of technology for hearings, including remote attendance, which might have taken many years otherwise to achieve. The judiciary has supported the delivery of the courts and tribunals Modernisation Programme and will continue to do so.
Our focus recently has been on reducing outstanding caseloads across all jurisdictions working closely with relevant major players to deal with more cases with the available resources.
We persuaded successive Lord Chancellors and Government that the technical changes made to judicial pensions had produced the adverse effects on recruitment predicted by my predecessors. By mid-2019 the need for change had been accepted and the resulting legislation finally received Royal Assent earlier this year. There remain difficulties in recruiting to some judicial offices which is the subject of ongoing work.
There is much to do before I leave office. I shall continue to work constructively with all those whose contributions are vital to the administration of justice. I look forward to continuing to provide service after I leave this role working at a less frenetic pace.
The Rt Hon. The Lord Burnett of Maldon
Lord Chief Justice
- You can read the Lord Chief Justice’s message in Welsh in the attachment below.