High Court judges are set to receive an inflation-busting 12-15% pay rise, it emerged during a court challenge to their pension cuts.

The 106 High Court judges receive £179,768 a year. The rise, designed to tackle a recruitment crisis, came to light in papers before a tribunal where six judges are suing the Lord Chancellor and Ministry of Justice over pension changes.

The claimants – Sir Nicholas Mostyn, Sir Roderick Newton, Sir Philip Moor, Dame Lucy Theis, Sir Richard Arnold and Sir Rabinder Singh – allege that the scheme, introduced in April last year, penalises them on the basis of their age and in some cases race and sex.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, recently warned of a High Court recruitment crisis due to pay and pension cuts. He told the Justice Committee an extra 30 or 40 judges would be needed over the next few years.

Lord Thomas called for fewer people to be sent to jail. He said: ‘The prison population is very, very high at the moment. Whether it will continue to rise is always difficult to tell but there are worries that it will. I’m not sure that at the end of the day we can’t dispose of more by really tough, and I do mean tough, community penalties.’

He also gave his backing to problem-solving courts and the doubling of magistrates’ sentencing powers from six to 12 months.