Circuit judge (England and Wales)

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Circuit judges in their ceremonial robes in procession at Llandaff Cathedral in 2013

Circuit judges are senior judges in England and Wales who sit in the Crown Court, county courts and certain specialized sub-divisions of the High Court of Justice, such as the Technology and Construction Court. There are currently over 600 circuit judges throughout England and Wales.

The office of Circuit judge was created by the Courts Act 1971 and replaced the former offices of Chairman of Quarter Sessions and borough recorder.[1] Circuit judges are styled His or Her Honour Judge X and are referred to as His or Her Honour. They are sometimes referred to as "purple judges" on account of their purple colour dress robes.[2] Part-time Circuit judges are known as Recorders but are also addressed as "Your Honour".

Circuit judges sit below High Court judges but above district judges. They may be appointed to sit as deputy High Court judges. Some are also eligible to sit in the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, though they are the more senior circuit judges.

There were six circuits in England and Wales: the Midland, Northern, North Eastern, South Eastern, Western and Wales and Chester. On April 1, 2005, with the creation of Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS), the six circuits were replaced by seven regions which are now: Midlands, North West, North East, South East, London, South West and Wales.

Formerly, circuit judges could only be drawn from barristers of at least 10 years' standing.[3] However, in 2004 there were calls for increased diversity among the judiciary that were recognised and the qualification period was changed[4][5] so that, as of 21 July 2008, a potential Circuit judge must satisfy the judicial-appointment eligibility condition on a 7-year basis.[6]

For criminal cases, circuit judges wear a violet gown with a lilac trim, a red sash and short wig and for civil cases exchange the red sash for a lilac one. Circuit judges sitting in civil proceedings no longer wear wigs, wing collars, or bands. Ceremonially, they wear violet robes with a lilac trim and a full wig.


  1. ^ section 44 Courts Act 1971
  2. ^ "In Pictures: Court room makeover". BBC News. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Courts Act 1971, s.16(3)(a)
  4. ^ "Increasing Diversity in the Judiciary". Department for Constitutional Affairs. October 2004. Retrieved 2008-03-05. "CP 25/04" 
  5. ^ "Explanatory Notes to Tribunals, Courts And Enforcement Act 2007". Office of Public Service Information. 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-05. "paras.281-316" 
  6. ^ Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, s.50/ Sch.10, Pt.1.13