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MoJ starts compensating part-time judges denied pensions

By Gazette Reporter

Following a 14-year legal battle, the Ministry of Justice has begun compensating judicial part-timers who lost out when they were denied pensions.

Interim payments to eligible claimants are now being made pending the introduction of a statutory remedy, the department said in an update today.

The longstanding O’Brien litigation began in 2005 when Dermod O’Brien QC, a retired fee-paid judge, asked the MoJ for a retirement pension on the same basis as a full-time judge, adjusted pro rata. On being told he did not qualify, O’Brien took the MoJ to the employment tribunal, claiming retrospective parity of treatment under the Part-time Workers Regulations 2000. The MOJ argued that his service before 2000, which dated back to 1978, should not be taken into account.

O’Brien’s battle culminated in a Court of Justice of the European Union ruling in November 2018 that O’Brien’s service before April 2000 must be eligible for the purpose of calculating retirement pension entitlement.

The MoJ said today it has begun making interim payments in lieu of pension to eligible retired O’Brien claimants for their pre-7 April 2000 service. It will continue to process payments for claimants after they agree their service records for the period in question with the department’s Judicial Claims Team.

These payments will be made pending provision of a statutory remedy to be delivered by amending the Fee-Paid Judicial Pension Scheme, a consultation on which will be launched next spring. In its annual report for 2017/18, the MoJ estimated the cost of compensating the O’Brien claimants to be up to £750m.

The MoJ also delivered an initial response in the case of Miller and others v Ministry of Justice, upon which the Supreme Court ruled this month. This concerned four judges with ‘portfolio’ careers in full-time and part-time roles and without formal contracts of employment seeking equal pensions treatment. The MoJ said it has accepted that judges in a like position to the Miller appellants should have previous fee-paid service included in their pension calculation.

(Courtesy: Law Gazette Society)