Judges will no longer be called ‘sir’ or ‘madam’

The Lord Chief Justice has announced that in an attempt to keep up with “modern terminology”, Judges will no longer be called “Sir” or “Madam”.


The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Burnett of Maldon, and senior president of tribunals, Sir Keith Lindblom, have announced changes concerning modes of address in courts and tribunals.: “The move away from Sir or Madam involves modern and simple terminology, reflecting the important judicial role while maintaining the necessary degree of respect. We also hope this change in language will assist litigants involved in court and tribunal proceedings. “This change only involves the way in which judges are addressed in court or tribunals. It does not affect judicial titles, which have a basis in statute, or the way in which judges record their decisions,” they said in a joint statement.


The current practice is to address judges as Sir, Madam or Judge. The changes will now mean that they should only be addressed as Judge, and will affect judges in categories including masters, upper tribunal judges, district judges, district judges in magistrates’ courts, judges of the employment appeal tribunal, employment judges, and first-tier tribunal judges. In tribunals, non-legal members will continue to be addressed as Sir or Madam.


Solicitor and legal commentator, Joshua Rozenberg KC said: “I suppose it will reduce the risk of misgendering judges. Calling a judge Judge may sound a bit disrespectful. But it’s how you address them formally when they’re not sitting in open court.” He added that lay magistrates should still be addressed as Sir or Madam and “Your Worship” or “Your Worships” could be used if in doubt. He said: “Many magistrates will tell you they have been addressed as ‘Your Holiness’ by confused defendants or those hoping for a more benign sentence.”


A spokesman for the Judicial Office was asked whether there were specific incidents or complaints regarding misgendering that had led to the policy change, and responded: “There really is nothing more to add. The change has been for the reasons given, for simple and modern terminology. Not due to misgendering.”