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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. 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 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.

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.

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.

Application Guidance

Please read the below for guidance with your application. For further information about becoming a magistrate, please visit our FAQs page.

Vacancies

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. 

If your area isn’t currently recruiting, you can 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 magistrate court observations or research before applying.

You can find details of planned upcoming recruitment campaigns in our Advisory Committee recruitment plan.

Application process: 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.

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.

Application process: 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.

References

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.

Interview guidance

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.

Unsuccessful applications

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.