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How to Volunteer

I'm involved in something I'm really passionate about – local justice for local people.

Gain new skills and unique experience while supporting your community.

Volunteer to become a magistrate

This is a great opportunity to stretch your potential, develop new skills and make decisions that will help create positive change.

If you like what you’ve discovered about becoming a magistrate and you meet the requirements,  it’s time to apply.

Here’s everything you need to do, at each step of the application process.

Step 1: Before you apply

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.

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. Useful places to start include:

Advicenow's guide to going to the family court

The Family Court Information 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 do offer at least some paid leave in recognition of the contribution you’re making 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.

Check you're eligible

In terms of the specific requirements, you'll need to be 18 to 74 years old and of good character with 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 magistracy. For information on what job roles may exclude you from volunteering, look at our FAQs.

Step 2: Application and interviews

You’ll need to complete an online application form, which will include a series of questions to determine your eligibility and a chance to describe how you meet each of 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

You’ll also need to provide two references. If you’re in employment, one of these must be from your employer.

If this stage of your application is successful, you’ll be invited to an interview. This will assess if you demonstrate the 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.

Step 3: 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.