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Frequently asked questions

“If you want to see a fair society, volunteering as a magistrate is one of the best ways of contributing to that.”

Shape your community for the better.

What are the benefits of being a magistrate?

Becoming a magistrate is a fantastic opportunity to support your community. It also offers a wealth of personal benefits and professional development opportunities. These include opportunities to:
• Improve the way you evaluate information and make decisions based on evidence.
• Increase your confidence in public speaking and engaging with others.
• Learn more about issues affecting your local area and make a difference in your local community.

What attributes does a magistrate need to have?

There are five key attributes required to be a good magistrate. The application process is designed to identify whether you have these attributes. At each stage of the process, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can:

1. Make fair, impartial and transparent decisions

You must be decisive and able to form reasoned opinions that are unbiased, impartial and transparent by following a structured approach when deliberating. You should also be able to assimilate large amounts of information and identify relevant issues.

2. Understand and appreciate different perspectives

You must be able to recognise and appreciate different perspectives, deal with others compassionately and show genuine understanding and empathy towards their situation. You’ll also need awareness of and a willingness to understand key aspects of societal issues.

3. Communicate with sensitivity and respect

You must be able to listen actively and attentively, clarify opinions and communicate confidently and sensitively within confidential boundaries. You should also be able to adapt your communication style to match the situation and clearly articulate the rationale for the decisions you make.

4. Show self-awareness and be open to learning

You must be open-minded, able to reflect and learn from other people’s perspectives, and adapt quickly to changes. You should also be able to seize opportunities to learn and maintain your competence, as well as use effective strategies to maintain your personal wellbeing.

5. Work and engage with people professionally

You must be approachable and dependable, able to instil trust and confidence, and work in a professional and efficient manner both independently and with others. You should also be able to encourage others to participate and engage them in decision-making, appropriately challenging any prejudice in yourself and others.

6. Good character

You’ll also be assessed on whether you’re of good character. Both when you apply, and if you reach the interview stage, you’ll be asked to disclose anything about you which might damage your credibility as a magistrate if it became known to the public. This is to ensure the public have confidence in the magistracy and its decision making. The interview panel will also ask you to affirm your commitment to joining the magistracy and ability to sit the minimum 13 days.

What do I need to be eligible for this role?

There are a several eligibility requirements for applying to be appointed as a magistrate.

The most basic eligibility requirements are that you must:

  • be between 18 and 74
  • be willing to take an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown
  • permanently reside in England or Wales and not be in the process of, or intending to, seeking asylum or indefinite leave to remain in the UK

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.

Establishing whether there’s anything in your personal or professional life that risks bringing the magistracy into disrepute.

It’s important that the public have faith in magistrates and their decisions.
If you answer yes to any of the below, you are not eligible to apply:

  • Have you been convicted of a serious motoring offence or accumulated six-nine penalty points, within the last five years?
  • At present, are you an undischarged bankrupt, have a debt relief order against you or have entered an arrangement with creditors?
  • Are you a director of a company that went into liquidation in the past five years or been disqualified from acting as a director of a company in the last ten years?

Your occupation may make you ineligible

Magistrates must also be free of bias and the appearance of bias, so there are some occupations which may make you ineligible to sit as a magistrate. You can find a list of these occupations below.

Some other occupations or volunteering roles don’t make you automatically ineligible, but there may be conditions attached to your appointment – for example, asking you to sit in a different area to where you work.

More information on eligibility for the magistracy, including restrictions on certain occupations, can be found in Part 2 of the Lord Chancellor’s Directions for Advisory Committees on Justices of the Peace.

Additional personal information required to determine your eligibility

In order to determine if you’re eligible to be appointed as a magistrate, you’ll also be asked to declare additional information about your personal history, and that of your partner or close family, including occupation, volunteering roles, previous convictions, bankruptcy proceedings or any other court proceedings. In answering these questions, try to give as much information as possible.

If you’re applying to the family court, if you have children (under the age of 18) who are currently, or expected to become, the subject of court proceedings or a court order, you will not be eligible to be appointed until those proceedings have concluded.

Waiting for six months to re-apply if you’ve previously applied to the magistracy, and been invited to take the magistrate recruitment qualifying assessment  

If you’re invited to complete the qualifying assessment and are unsuccessful, or do not complete the assessment before the deadline, you must wait six months before you can re-apply. If you’ve applied to the magistracy in the last two years, you must give details of your previous application. Your application will not be considered if it’s been less than six months since you were last invited to complete the qualifying assessment. 

Waiting for two years to re-apply if you’ve unsuccessfully applied to the magistracy

If you’re interviewed and are unsuccessful in your application to the magistracy, you must wait two years before you can re-apply. If you’ve applied to the magistracy in the last two years, you must give details of your previous application. Your application will not be considered if it’s been less than two years since you were last interviewed.

What do I need to do before I apply?

Before you apply you will need to take the following steps:

  • Observe court hearings if you’re applying to the criminal court, or do research if you’re applying to the family court 
  • Get approval from your employer to make sure they’re happy for you to sit as a magistrate 
  • Think about what support you’ll need to sit as a magistrate 
  • Check that you’re eligible 

Learn more about what you’ll need to do before applying

Do I need to visit a court before applying to be a magistrate?

It depends on which court you want to apply to.  

If you want to apply to become a magistrate in the criminal court, you’ll need to visit a magistrates’ court at least twice to observe the proceedings. Once you have completed the observations, you can apply to be a magistrate. Learn more about how you can prepare for a court visit.  

As family court cases are heard in private, you will not be able to observe a family court hearing. Applicants to the family court are required to carry out research into the family court before they apply, which may include watching videos and reading information on the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website, as well as researching more widely. 

In addition, you may also choose to visit a criminal magistrates court to observe proceedings and get a sense of what being a magistrate entails. 
Learn more about the role of a magistrate in the family court with our roleplay videos.  

How much time will I need to commit to the role?

You must be able to sit as a magistrate for at least 13 full days per year for at least five years.
Sittings are usually planned well in advance and, as far as possible, will be scheduled to take account of your personal circumstances such as work and caring commitments.
Sittings generally take place during normal daytime working hours. Some courts do operate on Saturdays, but you wouldn’t be able to meet the minimum sitting requirements by only sitting on Saturdays.
You’ll be expected to attend some meetings on the day of your court sitting, which will take place after the sitting. These often provide important information about changes to any legislation and procedure that you’ll need to be aware of, and about any matters relating to the bench you’ll be sitting on. This will help improve your awareness of any updates, and any issues that may affect your bench.

Training to be a magistrate

Your important new role means that you will have the benefit of Judicial College training, just like other judicial office holders, such as judges.  In your first two years, this will be about 10 days, made up of a mix of face to face and online training and generally completed in the first 15 months. You’ll also have meetings with a mentor who will be assigned to you on appointment.

After the first two years, you’ll have regular ongoing training which will depend on changes in legislation, practice and procedure.  This will enable you to keep up to date with changes in the justice system.

All this training is free and further training is offered if you progress to different roles in the magistracy.

Will my employment affect my eligibility to become a magistrate?

Magistrates must be free of bias and the appearance of bias, so there are some occupations which may make you ineligible to sit as a magistrate.

Please see below the list of ineligible occupations (current or in the past 2 years) for the criminal court:

  • 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

Please see below the list of ineligible occupations for the family court:

  • Educational Welfare Officer
  • Mackenzie Friends
  • Police and Crime Commissioner
  • Prison Service and Prison Escort Contract Services
  • Private Detectives

PLEASE NOTE: If you’re successful, other occupations may mean that you’re eligible but subject to conditions e.g you can’t sit in your local area due to a conflict of interest.

Talk to your employer before you apply

Before you apply, you should talk to your employer to establish whether you can fit this around your work commitments. Employers are legally obliged to allow reasonable time off work for employees to serve as magistrates.

Your employer doesn’t have to pay you for your magistrate work, but many employers do.
If you don’t get paid from your employer, or you’re self-employed, you can claim an allowance from the court for loss of earnings here of up to £134.96 per day. You and your employer can find further information about this at Giving staff time off for magistrate duty.

Read our Magistrates Expenses Policy to learn more about the expenses you can claim as a magistrate for any loss of earnings from sitting in court.

When are applications open in my area?

You can check when applications to join the magistracy open in your area using our dedicated magistrate recruitment plan timetable

How long will the application process take?

Becoming 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.  

Learn more about your candidate journey as a magistrate.  

What if I need reasonable adjustments to be able to fulfil this role?

Magistrates are independent and voluntarily carry out their duties within courts administrated by HMCTS, which is recognised as a Disability Confident organisation. We welcome and encourage applications from all groups, including those with a disability who are able, either unassisted or with reasonable adjustments, to carry out the full range of magistrate duties, such as:

• Travelling to and from your local court and navigating your way around the court.
• Reading information provided to you.
• Using the relevant IT equipment such as laptops and iPads.

When you apply, you’ll be asked to indicate on your application form if you require any reasonable adjustments to the selection process. We appreciate that reasonable adjustments are personal and vary depending on applicant needs. So, if you tell us that you need any we’ll contact you directly to assess how we can help you through this process. Anything discussed will be confidential and have no bearing on the success of your application to be a magistrate.

Do I need my own IT equipment to sit as a magistrate?

Yes. All applications must be completed online apart from in exceptional circumstances. You’ll therefore need access to a digital device to complete the online application form, including taking the qualifying assessment and for booking a virtual interview. All correspondence concerning your application will also be via email. 

When sitting as a magistrate, you’ll also need access to your own device to keep up to date with sitting and training information, and communications about the magistracy.  

Can I claim expenses as a magistrate?

Yes. We appreciate that you can face costs when sitting as a magistrate. As a result, you will be compensated for certain financial losses resulting from your magistrate duties. This includes an allowance for any loss of earnings you face from undertaking magistrate duties.  

Read our Magistrate Expenses Policy to learn more about the expenses you can claim as a magistrate.

I have caring responsibilities. What support is there for me to balance these with sitting as a magistrate?

If you look after children or dependants, you can claim for the cost of employing a carer specifically so that you can undertake your magistrate duties. 

Sittings are also organised six months in advance, to give you plenty of time to plan your sittings. 
You can also sit in court for half days, with the permission of the leadership magistrate in your area. 

If you find that you are unable to balance your magistrate duties and caring responsibilities, you can apply to take a temporary leave of absence from sitting as a magistrate. You may apply to resume sitting at any time. 

Is there a dress code for sitting in court?

You should dress to reflect the dignity of the court when sitting as a magistrate. This allows for style of dress dictated by your ethnic or religious background. To avoid giving the impression of bias, you must not wear anything which might suggest you might favour the outcome of a certain case, and you should generally avoid wearing badges or symbols of particular organisations or clubs. 

Do magistrates get legal advice when making decisions?

Yes. Magistrates are supported by a legal advisor to help them make decisions. These are qualified lawyers who will support and ensure you always follow the correct guidelines and procedures. 

Who should I contact if I have further questions?

For any further queries, please contact your local advisory committee: