You pay judges up to £60k to move house
THEY earn almost as much as the Prime Minister and are some of the highest-paid public officials in the country.
But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that some judges have received up to £60,000 of taxpayers’ cash when moving home – to pay for legal fees, estate agent bills and even soft furnishings.
Generous payments to help senior members of the judiciary relocate when transferred to a new court are made despite the Ministry of Justice budget being slashed by a third over the past decade, leading to drastic reductions in Legal Aid for the public and courtrooms being shut down.
The figures can only be revealed today after a marathon Freedom of Information battle with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) lasting more than two years.
The biggest relocation package, totalling £59,455 in just one year, was paid to a judge whose name was kept secret. Incredibly, taxpayers footed the £34,200 bill for the judge’s stamp duty when they moved house, along with £8,760 in agent fees, £6,325 in removal costs and £3,321 on assorted ‘fittings’.
The judge even submitted a claim for £190 worth of curtains.
Two other anonymous judges were given £57,660 and £56,653.
One claimed £2,500 for ‘soft furnishings’ along with £ 15,600 in agent fees and £1,145 for a survey.
The other claimed a £384 hotel bill, £108 to move cars to the new address and £23,910 in stamp duty.
Six other judges were identified. They are senior circuit judges entitled to a salary of £148,526 this year and were given relocation packages when they were sent to different courts in England and Wales.
Some appear to have used public
£34,000 stamp duty bill paid by taxpayers
money to rent properties near their new postings while retaining ownership of large country homes.
Mr Justice Stephen Stewart, who sat on the Northern and North Eastern Circuits from 2014 to 2016, got £57,044 to cover his rent, travel and council tax while he was working in Liverpool and Manchester.
Mr Justice William Davis received £29,842 to pay for utilities including broadband, rent and council tax. He was the most senior criminal court judge in Birmingham but now sits in the High Court in London.
Mr Justice James Goss received £25,205 over two years to cover travel, rent and bills for gas, electricity, water and internet after he moved from Newcastle to the High Court in London in 2014.
Judge Simon Hickey, a senior circuit judge in the North East, received a relocation package of £10,778 in 2014-15 – mostly to pay to store his belongings.
Judge Edward Hess, who was appointed to the western England circuit in 2015, got £7,200 for six months’ rent while Judge John Harrow got £4,780 for removal costs.
Labour MP David Hanson, who sits on the Justice Select Committee, said: ‘These payments are a very odd priority, at a time when the Ministry is undergoing major cuts and courts are collapsing.’
This newspaper asked the MoJ in October 2016 to say how much it had spent on relocation packages for judges. In November 2017, the department revealed it had paid out £186,866 in 2014-15 and £192,907 the next financial year.
Last week the MoJ named six judges who had been given money to relocate – but refused to identify another three on the grounds it ‘would be likely to endanger their safety’. A spokesman said: ‘Judges can be asked to relocate to ensure we maintain access to justice in all parts of the country.
‘It is a long-standing policy that people required to move for their jobs are appropriately supported.’
COSTS COVERED: William Davis, left, and his own home in the Midlands. He had broadband, rent and council tax bills paid when he moved to the High Court in London. Right: Stephen Stewart and his country house in the North West. He had help with rent and bills after he moved to different courts in the region
HANDOUTS: Simon Hickey, left and James Goss, right, also got public money. Centre: Cotswolds home of Edward Hess whose rent was paid when he moved