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Judges to get 3 percent salary increase

The government has accepted the recommendations of the Judicial Review Commission, including recommendations for a three percent salary increase for Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham announced yesterday.

The commission completed its report in August 2009.  However, due to the economic conditions that prevailed during that period, the commission recommended that its proposals come into effect in July 2011.

In addition to the three percent increase, the commission also made a recommendation that would prevent judges from double dipping.

The commission recommended the removal of the option to pay pension and gratuity in cases where a judge is appointed to the Court of Appeal immediately after retiring from the Supreme Court.

The commission was established to enquire into the adequacy of the salaries, allowances and pension of judges and the adequacy of judges’ benefits generally, and to make recommendations relating to those areas.

“In discharging its mandate, the commission could not reasonably disregard the objective facts and circumstances which would necessarily inform its deliberations,” said Ingraham in the House of Assembly as he read from the report.

The commission also recommended that the judges receive $75 for internet allowance per month; get 10 days paid leave per year for study attachment or to attend seminars with the approval of the chief justice and at their own expense.

It is further recommended that each judge be given a full size car; be allowed to remain in group insurance upon retirement on the condition that they pay their own premiums; and that justices of the Supreme Court be given the option to retire after five years of services with entitled benefits.

Ingraham said the government is happy to be in a position to support all of the recommendations in the prevailing economic climate.

He said he hopes that the next commission reviews the issue of housing compensation for the chief justice and the president of the Court of Appeal (COA) in circumstances where they elect not to reside in the state provided residence.

He noted that both the chief justice and the COA president have elected to remain in their private homes.

“The housing allowance payable in those circumstances is $18,000 per annum.  The next commission should be invited to review the appropriateness of that quantum of housing allowance in such circumstances,” he added.

Additionally, Ingraham said consideration ought to be given as to appropriate means of providing for the periodic review of the salaries and benefits of magistrates.

Calls for a review of the judiciary began shortly after two rulings from (now retired) Supreme Court Justice John Lyons sparked controversy over the independence of the judiciary in late 2006.

Lyons ruled that the Christie administration had broken the law by failing to appoint the commission.

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