A judge is a public official with the authority to preside over and pass judgement on legal matters in UK courts. A 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 or 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.
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.
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 controlling solicitors/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 make the jury sure of the case.
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 a 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.
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).
It’s possible to become a judge without a degree, if you take the CILEx Professional Qualification (CPQ). You can pursue a CPQ with a non-law degree and become a Chartered Legal Executive.
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:
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 to develop a clear understanding of cases and to clarify uncertainties.
Working with others. You will need to conduct Court or tribunal proceedings appropriately working alongside others, and you must value diversity, be able to show empathy and sensitivity to build relationships.
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, law and 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:
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) 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 salary of a judge 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, salary levels for judges are grouped from 1 – 8 (1 being the highest salary group). Judges in salary group one earn £267,509 per year, while judges in group 8 earn £91,217 per year.
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.
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