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Research: Judges feel less valued by the public, the media and the profession than they did two years ago

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And the majority have concerns about their personal security

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New research has revealed judges feel less valued by society than they did two years ago.

Judges were asked how they feel different groups in society value them. Across the board, there was a distinct drop in perceived value between 2014 and 2016.

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Only 46 of the 1,559 judges questioned (3%) said they felt the media valued them, while even fewer (38 or 2%) said they felt valued by government.

The Brexit legal challenge perhaps most notably exemplifies this trend. In the days following the High Court’s anti-government ruling — one that was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court — the media lambasted the judges involved and described them as “enemies of the people”.

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However, while the profession was quick to rally around the judiciary following these scathing attacks, only 62% feel valued by lawyers, the new data reveals.

However, this overall figure disguises a distinct difference between types of judges. While 85% of Court of Appeal and 82% of High Court judges said they felt valued by the legal profession, only 45% of Upper Tribunal and 35% of First Tier Tribunal judges could say the same.

This data is all part of the 2016 UK Judicial Attitude Survey, which questioned serving salaried judges about the job and their perception of it.

Other interesting headlines from the data include that 76% of judges feel their working conditions have deteriorated in the past two years. Sixty-four percent of judges rated the morale of court staff as poor, while 43% described the maintenance of their court building in the same terms.

A particularly interesting section of the report looks at judges’ concerns about their security. Just over half (51%) said they sometimes worry in court about their personal security as a result of their judicial role, while 37% admitted this concern follows them outside the courtroom. This was a new question asked in the 2016 survey, therefore the result cannot be compared with a 2014 figure.

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Again, this stat differs greatly depending on the judicial post. District judges are most fearful, with 76% admitting they sometimes have concerns for their personal safety in court. Down the other end of the spectrum, only 18% of Court of Appeal judges said the same. However, Court of Appeal judges are among the most anxious about their safety on social media. Twenty-one percent confessed they sometimes have concerns, second only to circuit judges (22%) and just ahead of High Court judges (19%).

Despite these gloomy findings, most of the judges (61%) that took part in the survey agreed that, retrospectively, they still would have applied to be a judge.

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