The Northern Circuit is 843 years old, dating back to 1176 when Henry II sent his judges on circuit to do justice in his name. The Circuit encompassed the whole of the North of England but was divided in 1876. That part to the west of the Pennines retained the old name and the lands to the east became the territory of the new North Eastern Circuit. Both circuits have much in common and have maintained strong social and sporting links. In 2016 the North Eastern Circuit held Grand Court in Leeds to mark its 140th ‘birthday,’ and kindly invited the Leader of the Northern Circuit, Andrew O’Byrne QC, the Junior, Rebecca Jones, the Remembrancer, and former Northern Circuit Leader, Peter Birkett QC to join a gathering of over 200 members of the Bar of the North Eastern Circuit.
In 1876 there were 62 barristers with chambers on Circuit. There were 29 in Liverpool, 32 in Manchester and one sole practitioner in Preston. Now we are over 1100 strong. 1250 if you include the current Bench and the retired judges and barristers.
There are and have been many famous Circuiteers. F.E Smith (Lord Birkenhead) and Hartley Shawcross QC who opened and closed the prosecution case against the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg were household names. Others who attained high distinction outside the law include John Buchan who wrote ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps,’ W.S. Gilbert, and James Boswell, a former Circuit Junior and the biographer of Dr Johnson. I have been proud to present them and 3500 more circuiteers in my Northern Circuit Directory, 1876-2004 with its supplementary volume to mid-July 2016.
Since 1876 the Circuit which comprises approximately 10 percent of the Bar has produced the following judges:
Lord Chancellor (3); Law Lord (7); President of the Supreme Court (1); Lord Chief Justice (3); Master of the Rolls (3); President of the Queen’s Bench Division (1); President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division (5); Senior President of Tribunals (1); Lord Justice of Appeal (28); Lady Justice of Appeal (2); High Court Judge (94).
In 1994 there were five women High Court Judges, four of whom were Northern Circuiteers following the fine example of the late Rose Heilbron appointed 20 years earlier. That fine tradition was maintained in 2004 by the appointment to the House of Lords of Baroness Hale of Richmond, who in 2017 was appointed President of the Supreme Court, having been Deputy-President since 2013.
In 2007 the Circuit was strengthened by the welcome arrival of members of the Chester Bench and Bar led by the Recorder of Chester HHJ Elgan Edwards.
2013 was a remarkable year in the Circuit’s long and distinguished history because it saw the appointment of eight of its members to high judicial office; Baroness Hale was appointed Deputy-President of the Supreme Court; Lord Justice Leveson to the office of President of the Queen’s Bench Division; Mr Justice Ryder to the Court of Appeal (and now Senior President of Tribunals); Mark Turner QC, Frances Patterson QC, His Honour Judge Stephen Stewart QC, and His Honour Judge Andrew Gilbart QC to the Queen’s Bench Division and Anthony Hayden QC to the Family Division of the High Court. The following year saw the appointment of Andrew Edis QC to the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division.
Congratulations to the three Circuiteers who had the rank of Queen’s Counsel conferred upon them on 13 February 2017. They are, Louis Browne, David McLachlan, and Sam Karim. We wish them well. We also are delighted to report the award of silk to David Knifton and Andrew Singer, announced on 31st December 2017. Their ceremony will take place on 26th February 2018. Well done!
Yet more appointments to high judicial office in 2017. The Circuit will meet in Middle Temple Hall in November to congratulate:
Lady Hale on her appointment as President of the Supreme Court; Mr Justice Holroyde who goes to the Court of Appeal; Upper Tribunal Judge Gwyneth Knowles QC to the Family Division of the High Court; and Amanda Yip QC and HHJ Jane Clare Moulder to the Queen’s Bench Division.
We also congratulate HHJ David Waksman QC and Clive Freedman QC who were appointed to the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court in 2018.
On the 14th March 2019 nine Manchester practitioners will be sworn in as Queen's Counsel. Our best wishes go to : Peter Burns, Giles Cannock, Lorraine Cavanagh, Richard Chapman, Nina Grahame, Jaime Hamilton, Richard Littler, Sarah Pritchard and Nicholas Siddall.
These facts and figures demonstrate the strength and depth of the Northern Circuit. We continue to attract talented and industrious practitioners to uphold the high standards and fine traditions of this great Circuit.
His Honour Dr David Lynch
Northern Circuit Remembrancer
31st January 2019