Circuit judges

Some circuit judges deal specifically with criminal or civil cases, while some are authorised to hear public and/or private law family cases, and some sit across a range of jurisdictions. Others may sit more or less on a full-time basis in specialised civil jurisdictions, such as Chancery or as judges of the Technology and Construction Court.

Some circuit judges may be asked by the Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) to sit in the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. There are currently over 600 circuit judges throughout England and Wales.

Where they sit

Circuit judges are appointed to one of six circuits of England and Wales and sit in the Crown and County Courts within their particular region.


Circuit judges must be lawyers who have held a ‘right of audience’ (the right to appear in court as an advocate) for at least seven years, or have been a recorder, or held certain other judicial roles on a full time basis for at least three years including being a High Court Master or District Judge.

Some circuit judges have been appointed as senior circuit judges, taking on additional responsibilities, for example the running of the largest court centres.

They are appointed by the King, on the advice of the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice, following a fair and open competition administered by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

Some Circuit Judges hold authorisation to sit in the High Court or sit in the Family Court in cases allocated to be heard at a Hight Court level sitting as Deputy High Court Judge on a case by case basis.

Some judges sit part-time in retirement and are known as deputy circuit judges.

Court dress

In the crown court, circuit judges wear a violet robe with lilac facings. They wear a red tippet (sash) over the left shoulder. They wear a short wig, wing collars with bands or a collarette.

At the Central Criminal Court in London (The Old Bailey), the gown worn is a black one.

In the civil court, circuit judges when dealing with civil business, for trials, committals, and appeals, wear a violet robe with lilac facings. They wear a lilac tippet (sash) over the left shoulder. For other civil work, normal business attire is worn.

In most family cases circuit judges do not wear robes.

On certain ceremonial occasions such as Legal Services, circuit judges in addition to their robes will have draped at the back of the shoulders a matching hood, a full wig, breeches and buckled shoes. Instead of wearing bands they wear a lace jabot and carry white gloves.