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Pay increase for judges long overdue

Former chief justice:

By Denyse Renne denyse.renne@trinidadexpress.com

Former chief justice Michael de la Bastide says the recommendations made by the Salaries Review Commission (SRC) to increase the remuneration packages of judges are long overdue.

De la Bastide, who spoke to the Express by telephone yesterday, said such a move is to be applauded.

“I am 100 per cent in support of this and it’s a fact, this is long overdue.”

He said it is important that the lifestyles of judges are comfortable with their status.

Adding that the quality on the bench “needs to be maintained”, de la Bastide said it is necessary to have pay increases as an incentive.

The ex-chief justice explained that attractive wages can be used to lure attorneys to the bench, especially since the attorneys, should they decide to apply to become a judge, will be leaving behind a lucrative practice.

“It is necessary...the remuneration which would make it possible for private persons who have distinguished themselves in private practice and at the bar, to accept an appointment on the bench without having to make a huge sacrifice ,” he said. 

Stating it was unfortunate  that the SRC report “is being made public at a time when criticisms are being made and the deficiencies are being exposed (in the judiciary),” de la Bastide said other judges should not be cast in the same light because of a few. 

“You cannot tarnish the whole of the judiciary for the lapses of one or two of the members,” he said.

Adding that he agrees “the delays being made, some of them are inexcusable”, de la Bastide said this is a separate problem which must be addressed and corrected “by those who are guilty of them”.

“That doesn’t mean to say the great majority of judges who are fulfilling their obligation in a timely manner should suffer because of the minority,” he added. 

The SRC, in its 98th report, recommended the salary of the Chief Justice be increased from $40,500 to $50,350, with an increase in the housing allowance from $15,450 to $28,000 

The salaries and increases of the Chief Justice and judges are tax-free.

The SRC also recommended that the salary for judges of the Appeal Court be increased from $35,800 to $42,020, and puisne judges from $30,000 to $37,300.

The commission also recommended an increase in the housing allowance of judges of the Appeal Court and puisne judges from $10,300 (tax-free) to $24,000 (tax-free).

 The report recommended judges receive $69,000 a year as an overseas travel grant and a judicial contract allowance of $118,000 a year. Both allowances are tax-free.

The SRC recommended judges (including the Chief Justice) have the following medical benefits: all costs associated with medical attention and treatment for himself, his spouse and children under the age of 18 years.

 It excludes optical, dental and all prescription drugs which can be obtained without a prescription. 

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