The demanding role of top judge in England and Wales officially changes hands today.

Retiring Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge will formally relinquish the reins o f the job he has held for the last five years to successor Sir John Thomas at a swearing-in ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Leading judges and lawyers, clad in the traditional legal dress worn for such occasions, will welcome the new head of the judiciary in the Lord Chief Justice's own impressive, wood-panelled courtroom.

Upon his appointment, the Queen conferred a life peerage on Welsh-born Sir John in "recognition of the contribution that he has made to law and justice reform".

He has described it as a "privilege and honour" to succeed Lord Judge, paying tribute to him for his "deep commitment to justice, the independence of the judiciary and the outstanding leadership he has given to all judges and magistrates".

Sir John, who has been p resident of the Queen's Bench Division since October 2011 - with recent high-profile cases including Abu Hamza and Julian Assange - has pledged that he will "endeavour to maintain confidence in the judiciary, its reputation and its high standards of integrity and impartiality".

Under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the work of a Lord Chief Justice involves around 400 duties which are required by law.

Key responsibilities include representing the views of the judiciary of England and Wales to Parliament and Government and sitting on important criminal, civil and family cases.

Lord Judge, 72, who was born in Malta, studied at Cambridge and was called to the Bar in 1963.

A distinguished career followed, culminating in his appointment in October 2008 as Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales - at the same time being created a life peer as Baron Judge of Draycote in the County of Warwickshire.