Case studies

HHJ Peter Murphy – Circuit Judge, Woolwich Crown Court

HHJ Peter Murphy – Circuit Judge, Woolwich Crown Court“I would highly recommend judicial work shadowing to anyone contemplating an application for judicial office. It offers a unique opportunity to explore the realities of the job with someone who is already doing it.

I did work shadowing about four years before I was appointed to the circuit bench myself. My purpose was to learn more about what the daily life of a judge was like, as opposed to what I imagined it to be. In my case, work had taken me away from the Crown Court for a number of years, latterly abroad at an international war crimes tribunal, so it was important for me to assess whether the bench was something that would suit me. It was not so much the courtroom work that I wanted to see – like anyone in a similar position I had already seen a lot of that. It was more the opportunity to see what went on behind the scenes.

I spent a week with HH Judge Peter Jackson at Southwark Crown Court. It proved to be even more useful than I had expected. Part of this was good fortune. It was one of those weeks where the judge could get nothing started. None of the listed trials was effective – frustrating for Judge Jackson, but highly informative for me. I saw first-hand how a judge makes good use of judicial time in such circumstances, in cooperation with the list office and other judges. I saw a wide variety of applications and short matters we took from other courts. But by the far the most valuable part was that the judge and I had ample time to talk one-on-one. He was very frank about all aspects of life on the bench, and gave me a wealth of good advice, both about applying and about how to conduct myself if I should be appointed.

The experience confirmed for me that the circuit bench was something I did aspire to, and what I learned from Judge Jackson has been very valuable to me during my time on the bench thus far. If you are thinking, even tentatively, about any kind of judicial career, a few days of work shadowing are an excellent investment in your future.”


Geraldine Clark – Recorder, South East Circuit

Geraldine Clark – Recorder, South East Circuit“In September 2005 I had the pleasure of spending three days work shadowing HHJ Machin at Lincoln Crown Court. As a barrister with a commercial practice and no experience in crime, the experience was a revelation.

I sat beside Judge Machin as he presided over the trial of a defendant accused of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply. What a view of the court! How much I could hear! What a contrast in styles between counsel! After half a day, the trial was abandoned because a police witness gave an answer suggesting that the defendant was well known to him. So it was “ground hog day” the next day when the trial began again.

The whole trial was full of human interest and a complete contrast to my day job as a commercial barrister. I was struck by how little reading needed to be done and the friendliness of the court staff. I knew straight away that I would enjoy sitting in crime.

Judge Machin and the Recorder of Lincoln – whom I watched passing some sentences – were extremely kind to me and answered all my questions. They told me how and why they had become judges and the good and the less-good aspects of the job.

I was particularly grateful to Judge Machin for showing me the excellent handbooks judges use, such as the Crown Court Index, Thomas’s Sentencing Referencer and, of course, the Judicial Studies Board (JSB) Bench Book. It gave me confidence to know that some aspects of criminal judge-craft are written down and so accessible to civil practitioners.

The experience of work shadowing was invaluable to me when I applied to become a Recorder, especially when it came to the role play. I recommend it to anyone thinking of applying. To get the most benefit, apply for work shadowing well before you may be applying to be a Recorder. Good luck!”


Christopher Gamwell – Deputy District Judge, South East

Christopher Gamwell – Deputy District Judge, South East

“I had been thinking for some time of applying for a judicial post, and one day in my local County Court, I noticed a poster relating to the work-shadowing scheme.

I made contact and the court staff very quickly made arrangements local to me and I spent [time] sitting in with a District Judge at the Bournemouth Combined Courts Centre. The experience was invaluable; it showed me both the extent of the jurisdiction and the day-to-day workload of a District Judge and provided an insight into the wide range of those appearing before the District Bench, as well as the practical liaison between the judiciary and the court service.

The District Judges were extremely helpful and supportive and I felt by the end of the period that I had learnt far more than in any number of appearances as an advocate.

Those days gave me the additional confidence I needed to press ahead with my application, and I was later appointed a Deputy District Judge, and now sit regularly on the South East Circuit.

I would unreservedly recommend anyone interested in applying for a post, to take part in the scheme. It is a unique opportunity to see the workings of the judiciary first hand and it was of great assistance to me during the application and selection process.”


David Binns – Parking Adjudicator

David Binns - Parking Adjudicator“I spent three days work shadowing a circuit judge, observing the proceedings from the judge’s perspective and discussing the case with him and his fellow judges.

The scheme provides a welcome opportunity for existing members of the judiciary to discuss their own experiences of the appointments process, to dispel misunderstandings and promote a culture of openness.

I was able to hear all the evidence in a complex case involving three expert witnesses. It was very interesting to observe the court proceedings from the judge’s perspective rather than as an advocate and to discuss the case with him. I was well looked after each day by the very helpful court staff. Although his judgment was delivered after my sitting finished, Judge Appleby sent me a copy by email. He was always friendly and chatty despite his heavy workload. At lunchtime we joined the other judges sitting that day to eat our lunch. They all made me feel very welcome and I found the atmosphere to be unstuffy and collegiate. I listened attentively but was also encouraged to participate in the lively exchanges of views and experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed my three days work shadowing and I would recommend the scheme to anyone who is interested in observing and gaining a better understanding of the life of a circuit, district or tribunal judge.”

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