What they do
A master is a procedural judge who at first instance deals with all aspects of an action, from its issue until it is ready for trial by a trial judge – usually a High Court judge. After the trial the master resumes responsibility for the case.
They comprise: the Senior Master and nine Queen’s Bench Division masters; the Chief Master and five Chancery masters; and the Chief Registrar and five bankruptcy registrars. One of the Queen’s Bench Division masters is the Admiralty Registrar.
The Senior Master is also the Prescribed Officer for Election Petitions, the Central Authority for all foreign judicial matters, the Prescribed Officer for election disputes, the designated person responsible for High Court enforcement officers and the Queen’s Remembrancer. The Queen’s Bench and Chancery masters and bankruptcy registrars deal with most of the day-to-day work arising within their areas of jurisdiction, and in certain circumstances may also try actions. The majority of cases do not reach a trial as they are disposed of by summary trial, mediation or negotiated settlement.
Where they sit
Masters have a nationwide jurisdiction. District Registries and judges in the Registries are limited to particular areas.
Masters and registrars are appointed by the Queen, after a fair and open competition administered by the Judicial Appointments Commission. The statutory qualification for the offices of master of the Queen’s Bench Division, master of the Chancery Division, Admiralty Registrar and registrar in bankruptcy of the High Court is a seven-year right of audience in relation to all proceedings in any part of the High Court, or all proceedings in County Courts or Magistrates’ Courts.
Masters and registrars are normally drawn from the ranks of deputy masters and registrars.
In open session members of the High Court Masters Group, which includes masters of the Chancery or Queen’s Bench Division, district judges of the Principal Registry of the Family Division, bankruptcy registrars and costs judges, wear the new civil robe introduced on 1 October 2008, with pink tabs at the neck and no wig.
Deputy masters and registrars
Deputy masters and registrars are appointed by the Judicial Appointments Commission. The statutory qualification is the same as that for full-time office holders; a seven-year right of audience for all proceedings in any part of the High Court, or all proceedings in County Courts or Magistrates’ Courts.
Their jurisdiction is the same as that for full-time office-holders. Appointments are for five years, and are usually automatically extended for further successive terms of five years.