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Sitting in Judgment

The Working Lives of Judges

By: Penny Darbyshire
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Published: 30-09-2011
Format: EPUB eBook (?)
Edition: 1st
Extent: 478
ISBN: 9781847317797
Imprint: Hart Publishing
RRP: £45.00
Online price : £36.00
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About Sitting in Judgment

The public image of judges has been stuck in a time warp; they are invariably depicted in the media - and derided in public bars up and down the country - as 'privately educated Oxbridge types', usually 'out-of-touch', and more often than not as 'old men'. These and other stereotypes - the judge as a pervert, the judge as a right-wing monster - have dogged the judiciary long since any of them ceased to have any basis in fact. Indeed the limited research that was permitted in the 1960s and 1970s tended to reinforce several of these stereotypes. Moreover, occasional high profile incidents in the courts, elaborated with the help of satirists such as 'Private Eye' and 'Monty Python', have ensured that the 'old white Tory judge' caricature not only survives but has come to be viewed as incontestable.

Since the late 1980s the judiciary has changed, largely as a result of the introduction of training and new and more transparent methods of recruitment and appointment. But how much has it changed, and what are the courts like after decades of judicial reform? Given unprecedented access to the whole range of courts - from magistrates' courts to the Supreme Court - Penny Darbyshire spent seven years researching the judges, accompanying them in their daily work, listening to their conversations, observing their handling of cases and the people who come before them, and asking them frank and searching questions about their lives, careers and ambitions. What emerges is without doubt the most revealing and compelling picture of the modern judiciary in England and Wales ever seen. From it we learn that not only do the old stereotypes not hold, but that modern 'baby boomer' judges are more representative of the people they serve and that the reforms are working. But this new book also gives an unvarnished glimpse of the modern courtroom which shows a legal system under stress, lacking resources but facing an ever-increasing caseload. This book will be essential reading for anyone wishing to know about the experience of modern judging, the education, training and professional lives of judges, and the current state of the courts and judiciary in England and Wales.

Table Of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Images of Judges
3 Where Do English and Welsh Judges Come From?
4. The First Step on the Ladder: Becoming a Part-time Judge
5. Becoming Her Majesty's Judge
6. Training
7. Judges'Working Personality
8. Criminal Business: District Judges in the Magistrates' Court
9. Criminal Business: Circuit Judges in the Crown Court
10. Judges and Juries
11. Civil Business in the County Court
12. Family Judges: The Patience of Job and the Judgment of Solomon
13. High Court Business
14. The Court of Appeal
15. Brenda and the Law Lords Transform into the Supremes
16. Judges on Judges
17. Tools of the Trade
18. The World of Judges from 2011


“Penny Darbyshire has produced a fascinating book of unparalleled detail on the working and personal lives of judges in England and Wales...essential reading for anyone who wishes to comment on the judiciary with authority.” –  Frances Willmott, Journal of Social Welfare & Family Law, 34(2)

“This is an important, interesting and, above all, enjoyable book...For those with only a passing familiarity with the work of judges, there will be much to learn. For seasoned court-watchers, there will also be much of interest; it is riveting to read longer serving judges recount in their own words the total absence of formal training that accompanied their elevation to the bench and the almost unimaginable casualness of the process by which they were appointed in the first place. More than anything, this is an enjoyable book. It is to Darbyshire's credit that the book is not only highly informative, but thoroughly absorbing as well.” –  Graham Gee, Legal Studies, Volume 32(4)

“Dr Darbyshire was given a warm welcome by her research subjects and extraordinarily open access: she freely recounts her impressions as she watches judges at all levels at work--and over lunch--over many years. Her very sympathetic and entertaining account may perhaps surprise many, particularly those outside the legal system. "Insiders" will be particularly entertained to identify the individual characters she describes so clearly.” –  Archbold Review, 2011, 10, 9

“...a formidable, utterly fascinating and certainly well written piece of research. If you wish to read a well-rounded and insightful commentary on the experience of modern judging, this book is to be highly recommended.” –  Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers,

“Penny Darbyshire, the author of this impressive work, has a first degree in law, a master's in criminology and a PhD in socio-legal studies. With those qualifications and existing research expertise in the legal system under her belt she was well placed to take on the formidable task of revealing the truth about the working lives of judges...The findings are a testament to her skill as a researcher and the book is a testament to her skill as a writer. Anyone who is interested in judges and the courtroom should read this truly unique book. I predict that they will not be disappointed and I will not be surprised if Penny Darbyshire wins an award or two for this book.” –  Professor Penny Cooper, Expert Witness Institute Newsletter, December 2011

Sitting in Judgment: The Working Lives of Judges by Penny Darbyshire, is a weighty work. She has spent seven years researching the judiciary and sitting alongside them. The result is a rare exposé of what judges do, think and how they and the system have changed.…Darbyshire's painstaking work contains some gems and sheds some light on a world that remains remote to most.” –  Frances Gibb, The Times, 29th September 2011

“Although little she says will come as a surprise to anyone who has ever spoken to a judge, Darbyshire has some justification for contrasting the fruits of her academic research with the 'cruel and lazy journalism' that has left the public imagining the typical judge to be an 'archaic media folk-devil' dressed up like a pantomime character…Darbyshire's book is probably at its most revealing in showing how judges used to be appointed before the system was reformed; some, she discovered, had applied unsuccessfully for silk and were offered a seat on the circuit bench as a consolation prize. She reminds us, though, of a system in which all judges were appointed by a cabinet minister.” –  Joshua Rozenberg, Law Society Gazette, 6th October 2011

“Darbyshire's major contribution, and that of other socio-legal scholars like her, lies in the exposure of the many injustices, incompetence and inefficiencies that have blighted and continue to blight our legal system...What this book does especially well is to show the extent to which the judges, almost as much as the courts' hapless consumers, suffer from and are frustrated by the appalling inadequacies of the UK's woefully underfunded civil and criminal justice systems.” –  Michael King, Emeritus Professor in the School of Law, University of Reading., Times Higher Education, 3rd November 2011

“I have now had the pleasure of reading a deal of your book, and I am filled with admiration for it. Many congratulations on a remarkable achievement – exceedingly well researched, comprehensive, perceptive, lucid, illuminating and valuable. These are just a few of the positive adjectives one could shower on this book. But perhaps the most important is the last, because 'Sitting in Judgment' will be a valuable resource for anyone who really wishes to understand what happens on both sides of the judge's courtroom door, the thinking that informs it and, importantly, the difficulties that have to be confronted.” –  His Honour Geoffrey Rivlin QC,

“… this is a very readable, well-written, frank, authoritative and enjoyable account of the reality of the day-to-day working lives of English judges. Anyone interested in what really happens in the English courts, in the reality of professional life for judges at whatever level of the English system and the context in which judicial decisions are made in those courts will be unlikely to find a more gritty and realistic account.” –  Derek O'Carroll, Scolag (Scottish Legal Action Group Bulletin)

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