The UK judicial system is renowned for its fairness and impartiality, and becoming a judge is an incredibly rewarding career path. As well as the prestige of the role, becoming a judge also comes with job security, as once appointed, a judge can remain in office until the age of 70. Judges are also well-paid, with salaries ranging from £91,217 to £267,509 per year depending on experience and qualifications.
A judge is a public official with the authority to preside over and pass judgement on legal matters in UK courts. A UK judge can preside over a case alone or as part of a panel of judges.
The role of a judge is to listen to evidence provided by witnesses, barristers, and solicitors in Court, and to rule on cases based on their interpretation of the law and personal judgement. A judge is expected to conduct a trial impartially and to ensure that all Court proceedings are lawful and conducted in an orderly manner. Being a judge and making these kinds of decisions is an immense responsibility.
Once a trial starts, and as a Court case progresses, a judge will enforce Court procedure, and analyse and interpret evidence. Throughout a case a judge acts as an impartial mediator between the defendant, the claimant, and their representatives.
Where a jury is involved, for example in criminal cases, a judge will support the arrangement of a hearing by keeping the jury informed of the proceedings, ensuring that witnesses and defendants provide effective accounts, and guiding the solicitors and barristers.
After submissions have been presented by both sides in a case, the judge is responsible for summing up the arguments of both parties, and informing the jury of the law on the charges made and what the prosecution must prove to aid the jury in making their decision.
A judge will remind the jury of the key points in the case, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s argument. The judge will then dismiss the jury to deliberate a verdict.
Once the jury returns a verdict, the role of the judge is to deliver the verdict out loud. If a defendant is found guilty, a judge will deliver an appropriate sentence. If a defendant is found not guilty, the judge will dismiss the case.
The role of a judge will depend on the area of law over which they are presiding. For example, the role of a judge overseeing proceedings for a family matter will be very different to the role of a judge presiding over a case in the Court of Appeal.
The average judge salary in the UK depends on whether they are full- or part-time employed or paid on a fee-only basis.
According to official UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ) documents for 2021 – 2022, average judge salaries in the UK are grouped from levels 1 – 8 (1 being the highest salary group). Judges in salary group 1 earn £267,509 per year, while judges in group 8 earn £91,217 per year.
A district judges salary is around £118,237 whereas High Court Judges salaries are around £237,639. The daily rate for a deputy district judge salary would range from £549.94 to £568.56
Fee paid judges, depending on the level of the judge, can earn anywhere between £200 to £1,000 per Court session, according to official MoJ documents.
To become a judge in the UK, you must be a British citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a citizen of a Commonwealth country. You must also be below the age of 70, which is currently the statutory retirement age for all judges in the UK.
The academic qualifications to become a judge in the UK often require you to complete an undergraduate LLB or law conversion course (the GDL). You must then pass Bar Training, the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or have passed the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).
You can also pursue a career as a judge by qualifying as a solicitor apprentice and practising for 5 – 7 years.
Plus, you don’t need the following to be a judge in the UK:
The journey to becoming a judge can seem daunting, but it is achievable with the right qualifications and skills. Applicants must have a minimum of five to seven years post-qualification experience, as well as a good understanding of the law. Candidates must also pass a selection process, which includes a written test, an interview and role-play exercises.
Training to be a judge in the UK involves developing skills in the following areas:
Assimilating and clarifying information: You must be able to assimilate information quickly and identify essential issues in order to develop a clear understanding of cases.
Working with others: You will need to conduct Court or tribunal proceedings appropriately working alongside others, and you must value diversity, and be able to show empathy and sensitivity.
Exercising sound judgement: An ability to display integrity and apply independence of mind to make incisive, fair, and legally sound decisions is a must-have skill for a judge.
Building knowledge: You must have a thorough understanding of relevant jurisdiction, the law and the law in practice and show a willingness to learn and develop professionally.
Intellectual ability: You must continue to develop your intellectual ability to maintain your knowledge of the law and deal with complex cases.
You can also train to be a judge by volunteering. You can get valuable experience and insights into the work of a judge through the Judicial Work Shadowing Scheme. You normally have to be a qualified legal professional with at least 7 years of experience in law-related work to join the scheme.
If you have already been on the Judicial Work Shadowing Scheme, you could apply for a place on the Judicial Mentoring Scheme. The scheme is open to applications from people who are currently under-represented on the judiciary, including:
Interested in applying? Check out our comprehensive guide to Judge Marshalling.
You will need a minimum of 5 – 7 years’ post-qualification experience to become a judge in the UK. The exact number of years will be determined based on the role you apply for.
The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) is the body responsible for selecting and appointing judges in the UK. As part of their selection process, the JAC offers two voluntary schemes – the Judicial Work Shadowing Scheme and the Judicial Mentoring Scheme – to give candidates valuable insight into the work of a judge. These schemes are open to applicants with at least seven years of experience in law-related work, and provide a great opportunity to gain valuable experience and knowledge.
The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) selects candidates for judicial roles in Courts and tribunals.
You can apply to become a judge online through the Judicial Appointments Commission website. At the first stage, you are required to write an application letter and provide references, both of which should put forward evidence that you possess the qualities and abilities required to be a judge.
For some roles, you could be asked to conduct a written test. This could include analysing case studies, identifying issues, and applying the law. If shortlisted, you’ll need to complete a selection day. This involves an interview and role play exercises.
Based on this, the selection panel members will evaluate your performance and make an initial recommendation to the commissioners. The JAC commissioners will then either accept or challenge the panel members’ recommendations and make final recommendations.
Afterwards, once the Lord Chancellor accepts the recommendations, the JAC reaches out to candidates to let them know if they have been recommended for the roles. If you ultimately succeed, the Ministry of Justice will contact you to let you know the starting date. If you do not succeed, you can ask for feedback and apply again at a later time.
Where a judge works depends on the type of judge they are. Judges work in:
Judges can work in full-time salaried roles, part-time salaried roles or on a fee-paid basis while continuing in practice.
The UK is famous for its extremely detailed judicial system. Thus, there are tens – if not hundreds – of subdivisions and titles for judges within the UK. Here are the most important ones, and what their roles consist of:
The Senior District Judge, also known as the Chief Magistrate, is responsible for all the approximately 300 District Judges across the Magistrates’ Courts across England and Wales. Their role carries more weight than that of a usual District Judge, meaning that they will hear the most sensitive cases in the magistrates’ courts, such as those involving extradition.
They are also responsible for liaising between judges and other various institutions.
Circuit Judges can be specialised in criminal or civil cases, whilst others may also hear public or family cases. They sit in the Crown and County Courts within their particular jurisdiction in England and Wales.
The Court of Appeal consists of various senior judges, namely The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the Master of the Rolls, and the Heads of Division of the High Court, alongside 39 ‘Ordinary’ Lord/Lady Justices of Appeal.
This specialist board hears appeals against certain decisions made by judges in civil and criminal cases. The Court of Appeal is the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales.
The jurisdiction of the District Judges is the widest of any judicial appointment. District Judges deal with most cases involving families, such as divorces, domestic violence injunctions and child proceedings. District Judges also hear cases involving property and claims for damages and injunctions, and other civil matters such as anti-social behaviour.
District Judges sit across various courts; they are appointed to a specific circuit and may sit at any of the county courts or district registries within it.
These District Judges specifically sit on criminal cases and youth cases in Magistrates’ courts. Interestingly, they usually hear cases alone. This is because by virtue of their appointment they are Justices of the Peace.
They will often have sat as deputy district judges in magistrates’ courts before having their current function for a minimum of two years.
These are the judges across England and Wales that often deal with the most complex and difficult cases, usually serious criminal and civil cases. High Court Judges are sub-divided into three categories: The King’s Bench Division, The Family Division and The Chancery Division.
The King’s Bench Division mostly deals with contract and tort cases. The Family Division deals with family law, as their name suggests. The Chancery Division hear cases involving company law, partnership claims, conveyancing, land law, probate, patent and taxation cases.
This carefully-appointed Judge has a very important role to fulfil. Their role is to hear criminal and disciplinary cases involving Service personnel in the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force, and civilians subject to Service discipline, for serious offences. Their court is equivalent in importance to the Crown Court.
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