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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:

  • You must be between 18 and 74.
  • You must be willing to take an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown.
  • You must 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Additional time required for your training

Being a magistrate requires you to complete four days’ training before you can commence with sittings. Timetabling of the training will vary, and the training will include half a day on IT training. After that, there’ll be a further one or two days of training every year.

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.

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.

How do I find out if there are vacancies in my area?

You must apply to sit in an area local to where you live or work, whether that’s for the family court or criminal court. You can find out if your area is recruiting.

If your area isn’t currently recruiting, you can register your interest and be alerted when your area opens a recruitment campaign.

When will vacancies open up in my area?

You can find details of planned upcoming recruitment campaigns below. Please note that these are subject to change. Register your interest to be the first to hear when vacancies in your area open up. If your area is not yet live, please take this opportunity to complete the required court observations or research before applying.

London (Crime and Family) – April 2022
Cheshire (Crime) – April 2022
Lancashire (Family) – May 2022
Merseyside (Crime and Family) – May 2022
Wales (Family) – June 2022
Greater Manchester (Crime and Family) – August 2022
Midlands (Crime) – July 2022
South West (Crime) – July 2022
Cumbria and Lancashire (Crime) – October 2022
Wales (Crime) – October 2022

What’s the application process to become a magistrate for the criminal court?

The application form

You should make your application online.

If required, you can request a hard copy or braille versions by contacting your local Advisory Committee.

The application form will ask:

  • Personal information questions, such as your name, address, date of birth and contact details.
  • Preliminary questions. These include – How did you find out about the vacancy? What area are you applying to? If applying in Wales, do you speak Welsh and are you able to meet the Welsh language requirements?
  • Eligibility questions. These will cover things like your age, where you permanently live, are you in the process of, or intending to, seek asylum or apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK? Can you commit to 5 years’ service? Have you applied in the last 2 years? You’ll also be asked to give details of your two magistrate court observations.
  • Employment questions. These include declaring your/your spouse or partner’s current occupation and occupation(s) in the last 5 years, and whether you currently do any other type of voluntary work/activity.
  • Character questions. These include providing details of any Fixed Penalty Notice, past or present convictions/cautions/motor offences/bankruptcy proceedings. Has a spouse, partner, close family member or close friend received convictions or cautions which could affect your application to become a magistrate? Is there anything else in your private or working life, past or present, which could damage your credibility as a magistrate if it became known to the public?
  • Additional information, such as reasonable adjustments and references.
  • Five key attributes. Here you should answer how you best demonstrate the five key attributes in no more than 300 words. You can find details of these attributes above.
  • Diversity monitoring questions

The five key attributes – advice on how to answer these questions

Your answers to the five key attributes questions will determine whether you’re invited to interview. Please note, if your area receives a high volume of applications, you may be considered solely on your response to how you demonstrate the core key attribute 'Make Fair, Impartial and Transparent decisions'.

The sifting panel will be looking for definite evidence of the attributes based on how you’ve behaved in the past or how you’ve dealt with specific problems or situations, rather than hypothetical or unevidenced statements. For example, “I’m very good at communicating.” is unevidenced. A description of how you communicated in a specific situation is better. Your examples can come from either your personal or work life – either is equally valid.

You should structure your answers to the questions using the Problem Action Result method, as explained below:

  • Problem. Describe the specific event or situation where a problem arose. This should include a short description to set the context and details of the problem that occurred.
  • Action. Explain how you displayed the relevant behaviours and understanding. What did you do? How did you do it? Why did you do it that way? What skills did you use?
  • Result. Summarise the results of your actions. What was the outcome? What did you learn?

Please ensure your answers to the five key attributes questions are honest and include as much detail as you can. The panel should not be able to identify you from your answers, so please don’t include any of the following:

  • Any personal information that may identify you. For example, your name.
  • Anything that reveals any protected characteristics.
  • The name of any educational establishment you attended.
  • The name of any organisation you’ve worked for.

What’s the application process to become a magistrate for the family court?

You should make your application online.

If required, you can request a hard copy or braille versions by contacting your local Advisory Committee.

The application form will ask:
  • Personal information questions, such as your name, address, date of birth and contact details.
  • Preliminary questions. These include – How did you find out about the vacancy? What area are you applying to? Which family panel are you applying to? If applying in Wales, do you speak Welsh and are you able to meet the Welsh language requirements?
  • Eligibility questions. These will cover things like your age, where you permanently live, are you in the process of, or intending to, seek asylum or apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK? Are you in the process of obtaining a divorce? Are you currently or about to be involved in court proceedings relating to any child under the age of 18? Can you commit to 5 years’ service? Have you applied in the last 2 years? You’ll also be asked to give details of your research on the family magistrate role.
  • Employment questions. These include declaring your/your spouse or partner’s current occupation and occupation(s) in the last 5 years, and whether you currently do any other type of voluntary work/activity.
  • Character questions. These include providing details of any Fixed Penalty Notice, past or present convictions/cautions/motor offences/bankruptcy proceedings. Has a spouse, partner, close family member or close friend received convictions or cautions which could affect your application to become a magistrate? Is there anything else in your private or working life, past or present, which could damage your credibility as a magistrate if it became known to the public?
  • Additional information, such as reasonable adjustments and references.
  • Five key attributes. Here you should answer how you best demonstrate the five key attributes in no more than 300 words. You can find details of these attributes above.
  • Diversity monitoring questions

The five key attributes – advice on how to answer these questions

Your answers to the five key attributes questions will determine whether you’re invited to interview.

The sifting panel will be looking for definite evidence of the attributes based on how you’ve behaved in the past or how you’ve dealt with specific problems or situations, rather than hypothetical or unevidenced statements. For example, “I’m very good at communicating.” is unevidenced. A description of how you communicated in a specific situation is better. Your examples can come from either your personal or work life – either is equally valid.

You should structure your answers to the questions using the Problem Action Result method, as explained below:

  • Problem. Describe the specific event or situation where a problem arose. This should include a short description to set the context and details of the problem that occurred.
  • Action. Explain how you displayed the relevant behaviours and understanding. What did you do? How did you do it? Why did you do it that way? What skills did you use?
  • Result. Summarise the results of your actions. What was the outcome? What did you learn?

Please ensure your answers to the five key attributes questions are honest and include as much detail as you can. The panel should not be able to identify you from your answers, so please don’t include any of the following:

  • Any personal information that may identify you. For example, your name.
  • Anything that reveals any protected characteristics.
  • The name of any educational establishment you attended.
  • The name of any organisation you’ve worked for.

Do I need references to apply to become a magistrate?

When you apply, you’ll be asked to provide the names of two referees. These can be work or personal references, but they should be from someone who knows you well.

Your referees will be asked whether they would recommend you to be appointed as a magistrate, and whether they have any concerns or comments about your suitability. If they’re your employer, they’ll be asked to confirm that they’ll support you in undertaking the role, including by granting time off work where necessary.

It’s important to make sure your referees can meet the timeframe

If you pass the initial sift stage, the Advisory Committee will contact your referees and ask them to provide a reference by a set date.

It’s your responsibility to make sure the people you intend to nominate are willing and able to provide a reference within the timeframe required.

If your referees don’t complete the reference in time your application will not be able to proceed.

We recommend informing your chosen referees in advance so that they’re able to return the form on time.
 
PLEASE NOTE, WHEN CHOOSING YOUR REFEREES:

  • If you’re in employment, one of your referees must be from your manager or employer.
  • You must have known your referees for at least three years (unless the referee is your employer and you’ve worked there less than three years).
  • You can’t nominate a relative or anyone you’re currently living with. 
  • If you’ve lived in the area you’re applying to sit in for at least three years, one of your referees must live in the same area.
  • Don’t nominate a referee who might appear before the courts in which you’d serve – for example, a police officer from the same area. 
  • You can nominate a magistrate or judicial office holder (but only one) as a referee.
  • If you’re applying for a Welsh-speaking role, your referee should also be able to advise whether you’re sufficiently fluent in Welsh to meet the role requirements.

Information provided by a referee is confidential.

Details of the contents of references will not be disclosed to applicants.

What does the interview stage involve?

If you’re successful in the online application form, you’ll be invited to interview. You’ll receive an email with a choice of interview slots and asked to book the time and day that suits you best.
 
You’ll be informed of the outcome of the interview via email as soon as possible following the interview.

The interview – what to expect

Interviews will be carried out by a panel of three people, which will be made up of both magistrate and non-magistrate Advisory Committee members.
 
You can expect the interview to last around 75 minutes.
 
The interview panel won’t have access to your application form. They won’t know any information about you, other than your name and what you tell them in the interview. 

Preparing for your interview

It will be helpful for you to have done your research by reading any resources on the role of magistrate, as well as thinking back to the court observations you’ll have completed if you’re applying for criminal court. Reflect on the attributes required for the role and how you can demonstrate them.  
 
Please think carefully about your answers. You can take time to consider your answer before you speak. You must answer to the best of your ability, honestly, and include why you would respond in the way you think is best. The interview panel may ask follow-up questions, and probe further on your answers.

Interview format

Interviews will be conducted remotely using video technology via Microsoft Teams. However, there is also an option for it to be conducted in person. This can be done by contacting your local Advisory Committee after you've been invited to interview.

What if my application is unsuccessful and I want to contest the decision?

Unfortunately, not all applicants will be successful. We appreciate that this can be disappointing, so all who reach the interview stage are welcome to request feedback.
 
You may also ask for this decision to be reviewed by the recruiting Advisory Committee if you have reason to believe that the selection process has been misapplied or that a member of the interview panel behaved inappropriately.

If you decide to request a review you must first request feedback, then state clearly and succinctly your grounds for doing so. It’s not enough to say that you disagree with the decision. The advisory committee you applied to will provide you with feedback from your interview within 30 working days of you requesting it. You must then request a review of the decision within 15 days of receipt of feedback.

If you believe you have grounds for an appeal you’ll need to:
  • Request feedback from the Advisory Committee you applied for.
  • You will be emailed a link to an appeals form and will have 15 days from receipt of the feedback to apply for an appeal of the decision.
  • Wait for the Advisory Committee to review and respond.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no right of appeal for candidates who are assessed as appointable but who are not recommended due to others scoring higher, or for those who didn’t progress to the interview stage.

Who should I contact if I have further questions?

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