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Circuit judge

Some circuit judges deal specifically with criminal or civil cases, while some are authorised to hear public and/or private law family cases. Others may sit more or less on a full-time basis in specialised civil jurisdictions, such as Chancery or mercantile cases, 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 seven regions 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 ten years, and should generally also have served either part-time as a recorder on criminal cases or full-time as district judges on civil cases before they can be appointed.

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 Queen, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, following a fair and open competition administered by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

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

Court dress

Bands worn over a violet robe and a short wig.

When hearing criminal cases, circuit judges wear a red tippet (sash) over the left shoulder.

When dealing with civil business, circuit judges dress as in criminal cases, but with a lilac tippet and without a wig or bands, wing collar or collarette.

On some occasions – when dealing with certain types of High Court business, or when sitting at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) in London – circuit judges wear a short wig and black silk gown over a court coat and/or waistcoat.