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In the spotlight: Judges

For most, an appointment to judge at any championship show is a fantastic opportunity, to be asked to judge a breed at Crufts is the stuff that dreams are made of...and then there’s the groups. Meet the eight group and best in show judges and find out a bit more about their backgrounds and what makes them tick...

Brenda Banbury
Best in show

BRENDA FIRST became interested in the ‘dog scene’ in about 1962 after she and her husband bought their first Pyrenean Mountain Dog. Over the next 12 years or so they became more involved in local canine events, Brenda undertaking open show judging appointments, and adding a Pug to their household along the way.

Brenda first awarded tickets in Pyreneans in 1975, and over the intervening 30 years has judged at open, club and championship show level, awarding CCs in over 100 breeds, including those in which she has exhibited homebred champions - Pyreneans, Pugs and Schipperkes. She has judged all the groups and Best in show at championship show level.

She has travelled to many interesting countries to judge at both club and all-breed international shows, including Europe, America and the Far East, meeting many interesting and like-minded people and judging many excellent dogs.

In 2004 Brenda judged the Utility group at Crufts and in 2005 the Working group, and says each appointment was a wonderful experience which gave her great pleasure.

Brenda considers the invitation to judge Best in show at Crufts 2006 as surely the greatest honour in dogs.


Martin Freeman
Utility group

MARTIN HAS always been interested in dogs since childhood, and became seriously interested in pedigree dogs in 1970.

In partnership with his wife June, he has bred and exhibited Toy Poodles under the Pepsidee affix.

For several years Martin was Chairman of Ashfield (Notts) CS, Chairman of Mercia Toy Poodle Association, and Vice-Chairman of The Poodle Council.

He was elected to the committee of Driffield Agricultural Society Championship Dog show in 1978 and served as Vice-Chairman and Show Manager. In 1988 he became Secretary, an office he still holds.

Martin is approved by The Kennel Club to award CCs in all breeds in the Utility group, 12 breeds in the Toy group, and the Utility and Toy groups and Best in show at Championship show level. He judged the Utility group for the first time in 1993.

He considers it a great honour and privilege to be invited to judge a group at Crufts.

Steve Hall
Pastoral group

Steve and his wife Pat became involved into the dog show world in 1973 with the purchase of an Old English Sheepdog, then a year later a Bearded Collie, and subsequently took out the affix “Shenedene” in 1976. They have bred Champions in both breeds and still exhibit to this day along with their daughter Michaela.

Steve judged his first championship show (Old English Sheepdogs) in 1984 and now judges 36 breeds in over three groups. He has judged both the Pastoral and Working group for many years at championship shows and has now been approved for Best in Show. Steve has also judged extensively throughout the world, judging in most European countries as well as Sri Lanka, Barbados, Dubai, Trinidad and Russia.

Whilst always interested in the administration of dog shows, Steve became founder secretary of the local Old English Sheepdog club where he served for 13 years, and Chairman of his local Canine society which he served for 28 years. He now holds the position of Secretary of Blackpool Championship Show.

“To be invited to judge anything at Crufts is indeed an honour, but to be invited to judge a group is something special”, he says.

Robin Searle
Hound group

Robin Searle was born into a family dedicated to dogs, his grandparents showed Gundogs, and his parents owned and bred Borzoi & Terriers as well as German Shepherds. Robin himself has owned a number of breeds including Borzoi, Shetland Sheepdogs, Bulldogs, Smooth Fox Terriers, Beagles and Papillons, and more recently Great Danes and Australian Cattle Dogs. He has made up 29 U.K. Champions in Borzoi and Shelties and many more overseas Champions.

As well as showing and breeding, Robin has also been on the organising side of dogs. He is past Chairman of the Greater London O.E.S. Club, Borzoi Club, Shetland Sheepdog Club (E.Anglian Section), English Toy Terrier (Black & Tan) Club, and is at present the Chairman of the Bulldog Breed Council which has a membership of 18 Clubs.

He started judging dogs in 1959 and is passed to judge the Hound, Working, and Pastoral Groups and Best in Show at Championship Level.

As well as judging here in the U.K. he has judged in every country in Europe, as well as the U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia, Kenya, Zimbabwi and Zambia.

He has judged several breeds at Crufts and is honoured to be invited to judge the Hound Group at Crufts in 2006.

He has also made three T.V. commercials for a well known Dog Food Company.

Terry Thorn
Toy group

All-round judge Terry Thorn is the only person in the U.K. currently to have been approved by the Kennel Club to award C.C.s in all of the breeds. He also judges all seven groups plus Best in Show in the United Kingdom. Terry is also approved by the F.C.I. for all breeds, groups and Best in Show.

Born into a family who appreciated dogs, Terry enjoyed the company of an Alsatian in his infancy. However it was not until 1960 that he became involved in the show scene when he purchased his first show dog, a Saluki, from the well known “Windswift” kennel of the late Miss Vera Watkins.

Over the next 15 years or so Terry’s “Tahawi” kennel became one of the top prefixes in the country, with no fewer than 39 champions world wide carrying his prefix. Terry himself made up eight champions with his stock forming the foundation for many of the top Saluki kennels of today.

He has also owned and showed Greyhounds and co-owned the famous Int. and Scand Ch. Gulds Black and White Lady with Bo Bengtson, handling this lovely bitch through to her U.K. title before she returned to Sweden.

Over a long period, Terry could also be seen successfully handling quite a number of champions of other breeds, for other people, but in the mid 80s he gave up handling bar a few Min Wire Dachshunds and Irish Wolfhounds for his wife Zena and her famous “Drakesleat” kennel. Terry has now given up handling completely.

His judging career started in 1963 at the Hammersmith Open Show held in London. Now in 2006 he has judged Best in Show at shows in every continent in the world. He judged Best In Show at Crufts in 1997, which he considers to be the ultimate accolade in any British judge’s career. He has previously judged breeds and groups at Crufts since the early 80s. Terry’s services as an all-rounder are greatly sought after throughout the world. He has already judged in approximately 48 countries.

Terry became a member of the Kennel Club in 1970. He currently sits on the General Committee, is Chairman of the Crufts sub-committee and is also Chairman of the Judges Training Board.
Terry is greatly looking forward to judging the Toy Group at the World’s top show, but would point out that the appointment was made before he was elected as Chairman of the Crufts Committee.

Mrs Freda N Marshall
Gundog group

Freda Marshall was introduced into the world of show dogs in 1950. It all began with a present of a Golden Retriever puppy bitch from her parents and she became the foundation bitch of the Gainspa affix which has been held by many Show Champions and C.C. winners. Gainspa bred Goldens won the Group at Crufts (1965) and Reserve in the Group at Crufts (1974).

Freda first judged in 1960 awarding CCs since 1975. She has judged the Gundog Group since 1992 and is now approved to award Challenge Certificates to twenty breeds in the Gundog Group, two breeds in the Pastoral Group and one in the Utility Group. In 2005 she was approved to judge Best in Show at Championship Show level. She has judged extensively in 16 countries throughout the world.

Professionally trained as a teacher, Freda first became involved in administration in the late 1950’s including assisting in Championship Show administration for many years, before taking early retirement from teaching to pursue her hobby of showing and judging dogs. For the past 15 years she has been Secretary of the Darlington Championship Show and is involved in various positions from President to Committee Member with many local Societies. Freda has been a member of the Kennel Club since 1983, is a Championship Shows Representative on the Kennel Club Liaison Council and an Accredited Trainer in the Kennel Club Judges’ Training scheme.

She deems it a great honour to be allowed to judge her favourite Group at Crufts.

Judith Averis
Terrier group

My father Les Atkinson was a professional handler so I have been involved with dogs all my life.

I had passed to go onto Art College but I was hooked on the world of dogs and decided to work with my father after leaving school and on his retirement from handling I started to breed and show my own dogs.

The first dog that I exhibited was my mothers Yorkshire Terrier and I won a Best in Show with him.

My first Champion was an Airedale Terrier and they are still my favourite breed and I hold the male breed record with Champion Saredon Handyman. I have bred and owned over a hundred Champions in Airedale’s, Dandie Dinmont, Irish, Lakeland, Manchester, Norfolk, Skye, Wire Fox, West Highland, Welsh terrier and a Rough Collie.

I have judged in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Russia, Hungary, and U.S.A. I am President of The Welsh Terrier Association.

Over the years I have taught many of today’s young handlers and watch there success with pride, my finest hour was winning Best in Show at Cruft’s with my Welsh Terrier Supreme Champion Saredon Forever Young, owned jointly with my partner David Scawthorn.

I could not ask any more from the world of dogs than to judge this year’s Terrier Group at Crufts.


John McManus
Working group

Active in dogs since mid 50’s when, as a schoolboy he and his friends walked GSD’S for the local Sealock and Gairdoch Kennels in the Grangemouth area, By the mid 60’s john had selected the World Famous Triogen Kennels in Kent for his calling to the Dobermann, purchasing a beautiful female and two outstanding males,the kennel name Riogen is now under Johns name, where he registers his WHWT

During the time involved with Triogen, the late Eleanor Hogg strongly advised him to seek out the knowledge of the German and Dutch breeders, Reinhold Kroner Von Hagenstern from Germany,and Vera Kniff- Dermout, Van Neerlands Stam, from Holland, he was very much involved with these great kennels until their untimely passing, Next for John was the involvement with the famous Winterlea Kennels of Pat and Marjory Mooney,who specialised in Chihuahua’s and Chinese Crested Dogs, where such a lot was learned in the involvement with both these breeds.

John along with his wife Irene, formed the Metexa Kennel, and have bred champions at home and abroad, specialising in the European lines.He has judged Dobermanns and many other breeds in both the Working/Pastoral Groups and Best in Show at many major international and breed club championship shows, through out the world.

In the early 70’s he took over as secretary of the local Falkirk & District Canine Society (of which he is now President) during this time he meet the late Walter Pratt of the Kelwall Bullmastiff fame, it was from this meeting at one of the shows the idea of forming a Working Group Dog Club of Scotland evolved, names were gathered that day and eventually came the formation of what is known as the Working and Pastoral Breeds Association Of Scotland, from its formation he was a founder Committee member and for many years Secretary of the Association of which he is now Life President.

During the 80’s John was a Member of the Executive Council of the Scottish Kennel Club and was elected in 2003 as a Vice President.

John is approved by the Kennel Club, to judge the Working Group, Pastoral Group, breeds in the Utility, Toy and Terrier groups, and Best In Show.