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Government loses bid to take judges’ pension dispute to Supreme Court

The government was today refused permission to take a pensions dispute with over 200 judges to the Supreme Court. The long-running case, which was first heard in the Employment Tribunal in 2016, has wide-ranging implications for public sector pensions and could cost the government an estimated £4bn a year.

The Ministry of Justice had sought to appeal a Court of Appeal ruling last December that the government’s transitional pension arrangements gave rise to unlawful age discrimination.

A spokesperson for the Treasury said: ‘We are disappointed by this decision. The government will now consider how best to compensate those affected by the judgment as part of the court process. The judgment does not alter the government’s commitment to public sector pensions that are fair to both workers and taxpayers.’

London firm Bindmans represented six members of the senior judiciary. The firm said the Supreme Court’s refusal to consider an appeal will have a significant impact on all public sector workers ‘whose pensions were also curtailed by the government’s policy’.

Bindmans solicitor Robert Maddox said: ‘The decision of the Supreme Court to refuse permission to appeal on the grounds that the government had not raised an arguable point of law reflects the clarity of the Court of Appeal and employment tribunal judgments. These judgments show just how poorly executed the government’s pension reforms were and the extent of the detrimental impact on people who provide services to the public, including our clients in the senior judiciary.’

Human rights firm Leigh Day, which acted for 250 judges, said it represents 13,000 police officers who have seen similar changes to their pension schemes. The firm said it has been contacted by other public sector workers such as NHS staff, teachers and prison officers.

Leigh Day solicitor Shubha Banerjee said: ‘The government’s decision to force younger judges to leave the Judicial Pensions Scheme has been ruled to be unlawfully discriminatory and the government has no further avenues for appeal. We look forward to these wrongs now being corrected. Judges and other public sector workers provide invaluable public services to this country and the government should make sure they are compensated fairly and lawfully for this service, including through their hard-earned pensions.’

(Courtesy: Law Society Gazette)