Master of the Rolls

Sir Geoffrey Vos

As a Head of Division and Member of the Privy Council, the Master of the Rolls is given the prefix ‘Right Honourable’.

The current Master of the Rolls is Sir Geoffrey Vos.

Who is the Master of the Rolls?

The Master of the Rolls was originally responsible for the safe-keeping of charters, patents and records of important court judgments written on parchment rolls. He still has responsibility for documents of national importance, being Chairman of the Advisory Council on Public Records and Chairman of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.

The Master of the Rolls is, by virtue of his office, a judge of the Court of Appeal and is the President of its Civil Division. He is responsible for the deployment and organisation of the work of the judges of the division as well as presiding in one of its courts.

He normally sits with two Lord or Lady Justices of Appeal and there is occasionally a third member such as a retired Lord or Lady Justice. The most complex cases traditionally come before the Master of the Rolls.

The Master of the Rolls is second in judicial importance to the Lord Chief Justice. He is consulted on matters such as the civil justice system and rights of audience.


The Heads of Division are appointed by the King on the recommendation of a selection panel convened by the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).

The selection panel comprises the Lord Chief Justice as Chair, a nominee of the Lord Chief Justice, the Chair of the JAC, a lay member of the JAC and a nominee of the JAC Chair agreed with the Lord Chief Justice.

The panel reports to the Lord Chancellor, who can then accept the selection, reject it, or require the panel to reconsider. If practical the panel must consult the current holder of the office for which a selection is being made.

By law, candidates for the post must be qualified for appointment as a Lord Justice of Appeal or to be a judge of the Court of Appeal.

In practice, Heads of Division are generally appointed from among the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (the Law Lords) or Lord or Lady Justices of Appeal.

Court Dress

For criminal hearings Heads of Division and Court of Appeal judges wear a Court coat and waistcoat (or a sleeved waistcoat) with skirt or trousers and bands (two strips of fabric hanging from the front of a collar), a black silk gown and a short wig.

When presiding over civil cases this group of judges wear the civil robe introduced on 1 October 2008, with gold tabs at the neck of the gown and no wig.