I can be a magistrate
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Becoming a magistrate
Volunteering as a magistrate is a unique opportunity to stretch your thinking and decision-making abilities while you grow new skills. You’ll also help make key legal decisions that have a positive impact on your local community.
You don’t need legal qualifications to be a magistrate. Personal qualities are more important. You will be asked to listen to cases and make clear judgement on what happens next.
Magistrates come from all walks of life. They are people of different ages, backgrounds and education. People just like you.
You can find out more about the attributes we are looking for, and if you are interested just follow the links to apply.
What does it take to be a magistrate?
You don’t need legal experience or a degree to be a magistrate.
If you’ve got strong listening skills, a sense of fairness, and the ability to consider different sides of an argument, then you’ve already got what it takes.
It’s also important that magistrates have good knowledge and understanding of social issues and the causes and effects of crime in the region.
Our magistrates come from all kinds of backgrounds and bring varied experience with them. This way, we can better represent the society we serve and deliver better decisions, too.
Being a magistrate is open to people of all backgrounds. To become a magistrate, you’ll need to be:
- Between 18 and 65 years old
- Have sound judgement and good character
- Able to volunteer for a minimum of 13 days a year for at least five years
– Understand and appreciate different perspectives
– Make fair, impartial and transparent deliberations
– Communicate with sensitivity and respect
– Show self-awareness and be open to learning
– Work and engage with people professionally
To succeed as a magistrate, you’ll need to be comfortable in a digital environment. For example, iPads are used in most courts to access information such as sentencing guidelines.
You may have to travel up to two hours to reach court locations in the area where you’re a magistrate.
It’s unlikely you’ll be appointed as a magistrate if you’ve been:
– Found guilty of a serious crime
– Found guilty of a number of minor offences
– Banned from driving in the past 5 to 10 years
– Declared bankrupt
If you work in the following occupations, you cannot become a criminal court magistrate, but may still be eligible for the family court role:
– Community Safety Partnership members
– Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) employees
– Independent Custody Visitors and lay visitors
– National Crime Agency (NCA) employees
– Police Officer, Police Community Support Officer, Police Special Constable
– Police and Crime Commissioner, and civilian employees of the Police
– Prison Officer, Probation Officer, Probation Prosecutors and certain employees of HM
– Prison & Probation Service
– Restorative Justice Panels
– Store Detective
– Traffic Officer (Highways Agency) and Traffic Wardens
– Youth Offender Panels and employees of Youth Justice Boards
What training will I receive?
As a new magistrate you’ll receive training in your local area and through the Judicial College. Training is through face-to-face sessions and online learning. It includes:
– A half-day training session
– Three or five-day introductory training programme
– A mentor to help you learn and develop
After your first year, there’s no set amount of training. Refresher training continues throughout your service and depends on whether you’re sitting in criminal or family courts. All our training is free and you’ll receive expenses for the days you attend.
What does a magistrate do?
In a magistrates’ court, cases are usually heard by three magistrates. One who is trained to act as a Presiding Justice, with the other two magistrates being the ‘Wingers’. You will listen to a wide range of cases, hearing both prosecution and defendant arguments and will then decide on the course of action, with the support of legal advisor. Legal advisors are there to give legal advice and make sure you are following the right guidelines and procedures.
Magistrates’ courts hear both criminal and family cases, and you will need to make a decision whether you want to volunteer in a criminal court or family court. We’ve provided some more information on the two different court types below, to help you make your decision.
Virtually all criminal court cases start in a magistrates' court, and around 95% will be completed there, with you helping to decide the course of action. The more serious offences are passed on to the Crown Court, either for sentencing after the defendant has been found guilty in a magistrates' court, or for full trial with a judge and jury.
You can impose fines, community penalties (including unpaid work or drug and alcohol rehabilitation) and prison sentences of up to six months. In exceptional circumstances, this can extend to up to 12 months.
Typical cases include domestic abuse, drug offences, motoring offences, theft, assaults, criminal damage and public order offences.
Before applying to become a magistrate, you’ll need to have observed one court case virtually and completed research into your role.
We’ve listed below some useful links for you to find out more about being a magistrate, including some useful videos.
- Visit Judicary.uk to read more about what you can expect volunteering as a magistrate, and the training provided.
- The work of magistrates in England and Wales short video helps you find out more about the work magistrates do in courts and the types of cases they deal with.
- A short film how offenders are sentenced in England and Wales provides an insight into how sentencing works in England and Wales and the types of sentences magistrates can give out.
In family court, you could make important decisions that affect vulnerable children.
You could also help separated parents make arrangements for their children, enforce child maintenance orders and help prevent domestic abuse.
Before you work in a family court, you’ll receive training to develop the right skills for the role. You’ll also be supported in court by a trained legal advisor.
Family courts are ‘closed courts’, which means they’re not open to the public, so you can’t visit and observe a court.
However, you’ll be required to familiarise yourself with publicly available information about the family court. To find out more, you can read Advicenow’s guide to going to the family court.
What does the recruitment process involve?
Check if the role is right for you
Before you apply you must undertake at least two in court observations in advance of your application to become a magistrate in the criminal court. This has been temporarily relaxed to a single observation, combined with research into the role of the magistrate.
You can use the tool at this link to locate magistrates’ courts in your area: https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/search/
It is recommended that you contact your local magistrates’ courts in advance of your court observation to find out when it is best to attend and which courtrooms to observe.
Talk to your employer and people around you
Find out if you can spare at least 13 days to volunteer as a magistrate. You can claim a small allowance for things like travel and food, and you’re legally entitled to take time off work.
Many employers offer paid leave for the contribution you’re making to society and the skills you’ll learn. If you’re self-employed, you can claim loss of earnings.
Submit your application and references
The application process varies by location so please follow the instructions when you click to apply.
You’ll need to provide two references with your application. If you’re in employment, one of the references must be from your employer.
The selection process involves two interviews. We currently offer remote interviews using video technology and the Microsoft Teams platform.
You have the right not to participate in an online interview, but your application won’t be progressed until we can restart face-to-face interviews. If you choose to be interviewed remotely, you won’t be able to ask for a review of the process based solely on the fact you were interviewed remotely.
Being a magistrate is a voluntary role but also a public appointment to the judiciary. Your role will be approved by a Senior Presiding Judge on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice.
You’ll be expected to dedicate a minimum of 13 days a year, plus time for training and meetings, for a minimum term of five years.