HC Deb 04 March 1994 vol 238 cc889-91W
Dr. Wright

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what age limits are(a) recommended and (b) required for service by (i) the judiciary, (ii) the magistracy, (iii) chairs and members of industrial tribunals and (iv) jury service; and in each case what are the reasons for the age limits set.

Mr. John M. Taylor

Information is as follows:

(i) The Judiciary

The statutory qualifications for appointment to judicial offices, which generally prescribe a given number of years' professional standing, are set out in the booklet "Judicial Appointments: the Lord Chancellor's Policies and Procedures", a copy of which is in the Library. The booklet also sets out the age ranges within which the Lord Chancellor normally makes or recommends appointments to judicial office. The statutory qualifications and the age levels for appointment reflect the need for candidates for judicial office to have acquired the necessary professional experience and maturity of judgment. The ages below which appointments are not normally made also reflect the principle that before appointment to full-time office candidates must first serve in an appropriate part-time capacity long enough to establish their competence and suitability. The ages beyond which appointments are not normally made are designed to allow those appointed to hold office for a reasonable period after appointment and to provide for the prospect of progression from part-time to full-time office or to a more senior post on an appropriate timescale. The compulsory retirement ages for the judiciary currently vary. When the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993 is brought into force later this year, judicial office holders first appointed thereafter will have to retire at the age of 70, subject in most cases to a power of continuance in office up to the age of 75 where this is in the public interest. This strikes a balance between the benefits of experience and expertise and the demands placed on older judges.

(ii) The Magistracy

It is rare for the Lord Chancellor to appoint a lay magistrate below the age of 27 or above the age of 60. There is no minimum statutory age for appointment. By section 8 of the Justices of the Peace Act 1979, lay magistrates must retire from active service on the bench when they reach the age of 70 years except for the chairman of a bench who may continue until the end of the year in which he or she attains the age of 70. These limits reflect the need for public confidence in the administration of justice. A lay magistrate must have the experience and maturity to sit in judgment on others and offer the prospect of a reasonable period of service after appointment.

(iii) Chairmen and members of industrial tribunals

Those appointed to the panel of chairmen of industrial tribunals must have a seven-year general qualification within the meaning of section 71 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. Appointments to the panel of part-time chairmen are rarely made under the age of 35 or over the age of 62. Full-time chairmen are appointed from among experienced part-time chairmen. Like other members of the judiciary, chairmen of tribunals must have professional experience and maturity of judgment and offer the prospect of a reasonable period of service in office. By the terms of their appointment, both full-time and part-time chairmen of industrial tribunals must retire at the end of the completed year of service in which they attain the age of 72. As for other judicial offices, the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993, as described above, introduces a compulsory retirement age of 70 for chairmen of industrial tribunals.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of Employment is responsible for appointment to the panels of lay members of industrial tribunals.

(iv) Jury Service

The qualifying ages for jury service are a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. However, I understand that generally those who are aged between 18 and 70 are eligible to be summoned for jury service, although any prospective juror over the age of 65 is entitled to be excused if he so wishes. Eighteen is the normal age of majority and is the age at which persons appear on the electoral register from which jurors are drawn. The upper age limits seek to avoid imposing demands that might be unwelcome or unreasonable for many elderly people.