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The High Court’s Queen’s Bench Division (QBD) is in turmoil after being branded ‘chaotic’ by a raft of judges, some of whom claim not to have had a break in the past 10 months. Judges are calling for the management of the QBD to be overhauled, claiming that a lack of communication between the division’s departments has had a negative impact on their work-life balance.
They feel this in turn could impact badly on their handling of cases, potentially leading to an increase in the number of appeals. Newer judges in particular are also concerned that there is no representative body for them to air their grievances to.
One judge told The Lawyer: “The way it’s supposed to work in general is that you sit for three weeks and then have a week off to write up judgments and prepare for future proceedings, but this hasn’t been the case for months. “It ;means ;that ;I’m spending all my evenings and weekends working just to keep on top of things.”
Another High Court judge said he was so overworked he saw less of his family now than he did when he was at the bar. “It’s a worrying state of affairs that the division is so chaotic,” he said. “The pressure on judges could lead to mistakes being made and in turn more appeals. That ;simply ;isn’t ;in anybody’s interest.”
A senior clerk at a top 10 ;chambers ;said ;the discontent among QBD judges was apparent to those working at the bar, adding that a number obviously wanted to give up their positions.
“The only concern for us is that many are talking about becoming arbitrators back at the bar, and that market’s already quite full, so there’s not going to be enough work to go around,” added the clerk.
A Judicial Communications Office spokesman said QBD judges were told upon appointment that, if they had problems of this kind, senior judges were available to help on request. He added: “It’s difficult to comment further in detail when the senior judges in question haven’t received requests for help or advice.”