Please read the below overview of the application process for becoming a magistrate. For further information about becoming a magistrate, please visit our FAQs page.
Observe court hearings or do research
Before applying to become a magistrate in the criminal court, you must visit a magistrates’ court at least twice to observe the proceedings. This is an essential requirement before you fill out your application form.
You can find a magistrates’ court in your area here. Once you’ve found your local court, we’d recommend contacting them in advance so you can find out more about when to attend. Please note that district judges also sit in magistrates’ courts, and it is important that you observe a court in which magistrates are sitting rather than a district judge. Staff at the court you are visiting will be able to advise you which court/s have magistrates sitting.
The Magistrates Association website is also a useful resource for information about the role.
As family court cases are heard in private, you will not be able to visit a court before you apply. Instead, you should familiarise yourself with publicly available information about the family court to ensure that the role is right for you. If this role interests you, we have further information about working as a family court magistrate.
Useful places to start include:
Advicenow’s guide to going to the family court
Further information about the family court on the Magistrates Association website.
Get approval from your employer
You’ll need to talk to your employer to make sure they’re happy for you to spend at least 13 days a year volunteering as a magistrate, plus training days. You’ll be asked to confirm their support with a reference. You are legally entitled to take time off for this type of voluntary work, but how many days and whether your leave is paid or unpaid, is up to your employer. If you’re self-employed or you have to sit unpaid, you can claim loss of earnings of up to £134.96 per day.
Think about the support you’ll need
You’ll need to factor in any potential financial impact before making your application. Many employers offer at least some paid leave in recognition of your contribution to society and the skills you’ll be developing. If you’re self-employed, you can claim loss of earnings. Everyone can claim expenses for things like food and travel. Read our Magistrate Expenses Policy.
All applications must be completed online apart from in exceptional circumstances. You’ll therefore also need access to a digital device to complete the online application form, including for taking the qualifying assessment and booking a virtual interview. All correspondence concerning your application will also be via email.
Check you’re eligible
In terms of the specific requirements, you’ll need to be 18 to 74 years old. Please note, that the mandatory retirement age for magistrates is 75, and that magistrates are expected to sit for a minimum of 5 years. It may take 12 – 18 months for your application to reach appointment. If you are close to the mandatory retirement age, please consider this before applying. You’ll also need to be of good character and sound judgement. ‘Good character’ includes your motivations for applying, your commitment to the role and whether there is any reason that your appointment would impact public trust in the magistracy. In advance of application, please look at our FAQs to check your eligibility, including age, minimum sitting terms, and what job roles may exclude you from volunteering.
Applying to be a magistrate can take up to 12 months from the time of applying. This is to ensure that all applications can be thoroughly reviewed, and the necessary checks carried out. The length of time taken varies depending on whether applications are open in your local area and how long your application and eligibility checks take to complete.
Over this period, your application will go through a number of stages. At each stage, you will be assessed to see if you demonstrate the following five key attributes:
- Understand and appreciate different perspectives
- Make fair, impartial and transparent decisions
- Communicate with sensitivity and respect
- Show self-awareness and be open to learning
- Work and engage with people professionally
More information on these attributes can be found in our FAQs.
Here’s everything you need to know about your candidate journey.
You’ll need to complete an online application form which will include basic questions asking for personal information and contact details, as well as questions on your eligibility and good character. You’ll also need to confirm that you have undertaken the required court visits or research for your chosen area and provide two references. If you’re in employment, one of these references must be from your employer.
Once you submit your application, you will receive an acknowledgement confirming it has been received.
2. Magistrate recruitment qualifying assessment
If you meet the eligibility criteria in your application, you will be invited to take the magistrate recruitment qualifying assessment.
In this assessment, you will be presented with a series of realistic scenarios that a magistrate may experience and asked then how best to respond to each of them as if you were a sitting magistrate. Further information on the assessment is available below, along with some example questions for you to practice.
You will receive the outcome of the test shortly after you complete it. If you are successful, you will receive a confirmation of this, including information about the next stage of the process, the interview.
If you have not been successful, you will be informed of this. Unfortunately, you will not be able to request feedback at this stage. You will be eligible to re-apply in six months’ time.
Within approximately 12 weeks, you will be invited to an interview. Interviews take place virtually; however, you can request an in-person interview by contacting your Advisory Committee.
You will be asked to demonstrate these five key attributes alongside ‘good character’. This includes your motivations for applying, your commitment to the role and whether there is any reason that your appointment would impact public trust in the magistracy.
The interview will take no more than 75 minutes, and your answers will be evaluated by the Advisory Committee that you applied to. Candidates are provided with interview guidance ahead of their interview.
4. Interview outcome
Once your interview has been scored, you will be notified of the outcome. This can take several months, as Advisory Committees will conduct interviews with the entire cohort of candidates before issuing the outcomes. If you are successful, you will be subject to some final pre-appointment checks.
If you are unsuccessful at the interview stage, you will be informed of this. At this stage, you can request feedback from the Advisory Committee.
5. Pre-appointment checks
Ahead of your appointment, you will undergo a number of final checks, including a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, to confirm that you don’t have any convictions that would disqualify you from sitting as a magistrate. This stage can take several months. If you pass the final checks, you will be recommended for appointment.
Show us that you can be a magistrate in your interviews, and you’ll be formally offered the role. We think it will be one of the most rewarding work responsibilities you’ll ever take on.
This is a voluntary role but as it’s also a public appointment to the judiciary, if you are recommended for appointment, it will need to 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 training days, for a minimum of five years, for magistrate duties.