Sandy Canavan, Circuit Judge

Sandy is a Circuit Judge sitting in crime at Snaresbrook Crown Court. She was appointed as a Recorder in 2010 and a Circuit Judge in 2014. Since 2018 Sandy has undertaken a voluntary role as a Diversity and Community Relations Judge. Sandy also volunteers for Speakers for Schools and is a Governor at a local state primary school.


“Before my appointment I was a barrister. For about 15 years I did a mix of crime, family and personal injury and for the last 10 years I practised in crime alone. My parents were immigrants from Ireland in the 1950s and I grew up in a council house in Hackney, East London with my 3 sisters and my grandmother. I was state school educated in Stamford Hill.

I became a judge mainly because I thought that I would be good at it. I had watched a number of judges over the years with different styles and approaches which made me realise that I had the necessary skill set. It was also important that more women and more people from non-traditional backgrounds were represented in the judiciary – this helps society see that we are not out of touch.


I have brought to the bench firstly an understanding of the system itself. Secondly, an understanding of how active judicial involvement in a case can help. Thirdly, how proper preparation and hard work are critical to the effective and fair disposal of any case. Finally, how important it is in the way you engage and communicate with people caught up in the system – defendants, juries and witnesses so that they can understand what is happening and feel part of the process, as opposed to it being something that is being done to them.


My personal background made me want to show that I was just as good, if not better, than those from a more privileged background. It did, and to an extent still does, leave me with a bit of imposter syndrome. I have a very different life experience to most of my colleagues and sometimes, it seems, little in common socially with them. However, as with anyone in life, people on an individual level generally surprise you in a nice way.


I am particularly interested in convincing kids from working-class and migrant backgrounds that there is nothing you cannot do.”

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