A RARE insight into the problems plaguing the inner sanctum of the Judiciary has been given by judges in a series of interviews with the South China Morning Post. Speaking on condition of anonymity, judges in the High and District courts expressed anger and frustration at what they said was a ''Dickensian'' Judiciary. They were strongly critical of the management style of the Registrar of the Supreme Court, Julian Betts. Mr Betts, whose administrative duties cease today with the appointment of Alice Tai Yuen-ying, rejected Post requests for an interview. ''It pains me to have to say it, but the District Court is in an appalling, antiquated state. There is institutional lethargy,'' said one judge. ''For reasons totally lost on me, there has been an unwillingness to make any substantive proposals to Finance Branch for funding to improve what is now a primitive system. We are not provided with the tools to properly do our work and nobody has given adamn. ''The day-to-day control from the top is mismanaged and complacent, but I do not believe the buck stops with the Chief Justice [Sir Ti Liang Yang]. ''The Government, I'm quite sure, is happy to get justice on the cheap. The attitude seems to be that as long as we don't cock up too often, everything's fine. ''We have adopted an overbearing air of cynicism relating to any promises of improvements. It is bloody depressing. All of us enjoy our work and we are professionals, but morale is not good.'' Said another: ''We send memos to Betts suggesting this and that, but if you get a response it amounts to being told to mind your own business. ''I am not alone on the Bench in arguing that there is not, in fact, a lack of judges. There is an adequate number of judges in the High and District courts, but the system lets us down. We need to be more profitably employed. ''Our views have never been sought on anything to do with the delays in the District Court. ''Nobody has said: 'Right lads, let's put our heads together and sort this out'. We are treated like schoolchildren and never consulted. ''Nobody takes responsibility for the minutiae of the administration. The courts are worse than grubby, they're dirty. There is no maintenance of facilities for the public and the toilets are disgraceful. ''We have pathetic paper signs everywhere because nobody has taken the time to have permanent signs put up. It all adds up to a public perception of a slack, lax administration of justice and the perception is right. ''There are many very capable practitioners at the Bar who would come to the Judiciary if they thought it was run properly.'' All judges interviewed slammed the lack of technology in the Judiciary and said it had contributed in a major way to the backlog of cases and accompanying delays. ''To be fair, the delays are not as bad as in England, but they would be minimal if a semblance of modern court management was practised,'' said another judge. ''How can the fact that District Court judges must take a longhand note of all the evidence be justified in 1994 in a territory as wealthy as Hong Kong? When our heads are down writing the whole time, we can't observe the demeanour of the witness or the interplay. Justice is not properly served. ''The typing service is such that I know it will take three weeks for them to type my notes and then another two weeks to get them right. ''It is true the delays are partly due to judges allowing counsel to witter on endlessly and because there is neither confidence nor incentive to take charge and speed things up,'' he said. Said a High Court judge: ''Legco wants to feel confident that if they throw money at us to bring us into the 20th century, it will be spent properly. ''What are the priorities? This building needs to be fully computerised, the telephone system is antiquated and staffing arrangements are appalling. ''It is absolutely disgraceful that a High Court Judge, the equivalent of a department head on the pay scale, does not have a personal secretary. I spend hours and hours on correspondence and drafts of judgments, but if we were in the modern age they could be dealt with in a flash,'' he said. Another High Court judge bemoaned what he said was a lack of leadership, which he said had a debilitating trickle-down effect. ''This is the highest-paid Judiciary in the world. You get a very good salary, pension, gratuity, house, air fares and school fees, but you have to wear the mess that it's in,'' he said. ''I know some judges abuse the system and run about town at 11 am saying they have nothing to do. That's silly and unfortunate because most of us are working very hard just to try to keep up.'' All judges interviewed said statistics showing judges sat an average of three hours a day in court were extremely unfair and misleading. ''I get a great deal of flak walking into the snooker room of my club. People say: 'You have worked your three hours, have you?','' said a judge in the High Court. ''But it's a bit like a surgeon who only operates a few hours a day. He has many more hours of other duties to perform.''