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Inside our courts

“I just wanted to help people and make sure the right thing was done.”

You’ll make a difference to society, whichever court you work in.

Which court should I apply to?

While the role of the magistrate is always about hearing a range of cases and using sound judgement to make the right decisions, magistrates work in two distinct environments – the criminal court and the family court. If you’d like to become a magistrate, you’ll need to choose which type of court you want to work in. In either environment, you’ll have a wide range of opportunities to make a meaningful difference to individuals, and to wider society.

Family and criminal courts handle different types of cases, and work with different groups of people. Magistrates in both courts require similar skills, character, and sound judgement, but the interests and motivations that might lead you to each could differ.

Highbury Magistrates Court. Posed by models.

Skills for both courts include:

  • 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 

Family court magistrates might have a number of interests such as:

  • Working with vulnerable children and families
  • Making a tangible difference to the community
  • Education and welfare
  • Supporting children and families through difficult times

Learn more about the family court

Criminal court magistrates might have interests such as:

  • Supporting communities
  • Working with vulnerable adults
  • Reducing crime
  • Rehabilitating offenders

Before you can apply to be a criminal magistrates, you will need to visit a court.

Learn more about the criminal court

How does sentencing work?

Magistrates work as a bench (team of three) and are supported by a legal advisor to help them make decisions.

Only criminal court magistrates deliver sentences. They can sentence people for up to 12 months for a single offence.

While family magistrates don’t pass sentences, they do make decisions that affect vulnerable children, support separated parents in making arrangements for their children, enforce child maintenance orders, and help prevent domestic abuse.  

What’s it like working as a magistrate?

Watch this short video where Khadija talks about what it’s like volunteering as a magistrate