Lauren works for His Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and became a magistrate in October 2023. She is a young magistrate sitting in the adult criminal court.
Having begun her training and observation sittings, Lauren says ‘it is clear to me that magistrates and colleagues of the court are all working together to deliver open justice as best as possible’.
Lauren feels it’s important to have more diverse range of magistrates in courts in terms of age range, background and ethnicity. Read on to learn why Lauren decided to become a magistrate and her experience so far.
Why did you decide to become a magistrate?
There are many reasons. Firstly, I started off in the Civil Service as a high court judge’s clerk and spent a lot of time travelling to different Crown Courts where I would sit on the bench next to the judge. I found the operations of a court, and the type of cases the judge heard, to be completely fascinating. Since moving to a role within HMCTS I have missed the in-court element of my previous role – becoming a magistrate in a criminal court gives me that experience again.
However, my main reason for applying was because it is no secret that magistrate panels are lacking in diversity, particularly with age. There are many fantastic magistrates on the bench with a great amount of experience. However, I felt it was important to be able to offer a different angle on matters that impact many young people that find themselves in court. Having a wider and more diverse range of opinions, experiences and background will give a magistrates’ bench a greater chance to make the most informed and practical decisions.
Which qualities do you think are important for a magistrate to have?
I would say to be understanding is one of the key qualities. No two people have the exact same backgrounds and life experiences, and so it is important to understand how and why some people end up in a criminal court. It’s also important to remember how your decision may impact the rest of that person’s life. Magistrates try to provide the tools for an individual to get back onto their feet and not be put into a position where they are likely to reoffend.
What have you gained from this experience and how has it impacted your day job?
I work full-time and, after being sworn in, it did seem a little daunting with the time required to train and do your required observation sittings. I thought it would end up impacting my day job quite a lot. However, you are the one who provides your availability and as long as you sit the required 13 full days per year, you can figure out what works best for your schedule. You are supplied with a mentor and a presiding justice – both are on hand to ensure that you are not overstretching yourself with work and with this role.
Has previous employment given you skills that you are benefitting from as a magistrate?
Having previously worked in HMCTS and having that in-court experience absolutely helped with not being so nervous entering a court, or the idea of sitting on the bench. In order to apply to be a magistrate you have to do two court observations; I would encourage everyone who applies to familiarise yourself with how a court operates, the language used, and the role of council and the judge.
How did you find the application process?
The application and interview process are very interesting. It’s a great way for panels to see you as an individual and see if you hold the qualities a magistrate should have. The London Advisory Committee were very helpful in assisting me with queries regarding my application throughout the process. I would say the main thing with the application process is to be yourself and be patient. It is worth it in the end!
What would you say to someone thinking of becoming a magistrate?
If you are someone who wants to make a difference in society, help people and help deliver justice, then absolutely apply. It is, as it should be, a real commitment. The role that you play is so important and will no doubt help you grow as a person and feel empowered. For the application process you do need to be patient; however, for me already I can tell it is so very worth the wait.
Think you’ve got what it takes to be a magistrate? Learn more about how you can volunteer and start your journey.