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Judges preside over law courts and make judgments based on the evidence presented.
Their responsibilities vary. They may preside over criminal trials for more serious offences. In these cases they:
- listen to information and evidence presented in court
- come to a decision based on the facts
- instruct and advise the jury on evidence during court proceedings.
- pass sentences.
They may preside over civil cases and hearings in family courts. Judges who hear civil and family cases will often try to resolve difficulties between parties. This may be by awarding compensation or making a legally binding order for the parties to behave in a particular way.
Judges work in courts and in offices referred to as 'chambers'. Their working hours vary, depending on when the court is in session, and can involve evening work.
In court, they wear wigs and gowns, and must observe court traditions and formality. They sometimes travel between courts and may have to spend nights away from home.
An advisory committee set the salary levels for judges, in consultation with a senior judge, the Master of the Rolls. Salaries range from around £102,921 for a district judge to approximately £172,753 a year for a high court judge. Guidelines are also set for hourly rates as follows: from £111 to £201 nationally and from £138 to £409 in London.
A judge should:
- have a thorough knowledge of all aspects of the law
- be able to understand and interpret complex legal information and arguments
- be able to communicate well with many different people
- be able to work independently and rely on their own judgement
- be polite and considerate to people who are very upset and emotional
- take responsibility for the consequences of their decisions
- be interested in the law and giving a service to the community.
Most judges are qualified solicitors or barristers (it is currently necessary to have been fully qualified as a barrister or solicitor for at least seven years). For general information on becoming a solicitor, see Solicitor, and for general information on becoming a barrister, see Barrister. Legal executives who are fellows of The Institute of Legal Executives may become deputy district or district judges. For information on becoming a legal executive, see Legal Executive.
Judges in England are appointed by the Judicial Appointments Commission. They usually obtain a full-time appointment after first serving in a part-time capacity. Applicants need substantial experience as a solicitor, barrister or legal executive before they can apply for a part-time post, for example as a deputy district judge or as a recorder. After a period of time in one of these positions, they can apply for a full-time post as a district or circuit judge. Entry is very competitive.
Before appointment, deputy district judges and recorders must shadow an experienced judge, attend a formal training course run by the Judicial Studies Board and update their knowledge at regular training seminars. Deputy district judges are also regularly assessed by experienced district judges.
There are just over 3,600 judges in England, a number that is likely to increase. Progression is possible to high court judge and to a limited number of senior positions such as judge of the Court of Appeal, Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice.
The Judiciary of England and Wales. Website: www.judiciary.gov.uk
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.