Make volunteering as a magistrate your New Year’s resolution. The fascinating element of the courts, gaining new skills and seeing your decisions making an impact is all part of what makes the magistracy so great. If you're new to volunteering and always wondered what it was like to volunteer as a magistrate, here’s your go-to guide for what you should know.
What is a magistrate?
Many of the legal decisions in England and Wales are made by magistrates. Magistrates are ordinary people who come from all sorts of fields, from all walks of life and have no previous connection to the law profession.
To be eligible to become a magistrate, you need to ensure that you’re:
- aged between 18 and 74
- 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
- able to sit as a magistrate for at least 13 full days per year for at least five years
Do I have to volunteer for 13 consecutive days?
No – there is a good degree of flexibility when it comes to volunteering as a magistrate. Magistrates are assigned to sittings twice yearly taking into account their availability to maintain an agreed set of advanced dates. This particularly helps those individuals who might work full-time or an otherwise busy schedule.
For individuals who are more flexible, there are opportunities throughout the year to volunteer for additional sittings some of which will be short notice.
I don’t have qualifications or a law degree, can I still be a magistrate?
You do not need a qualification or law degree to become a magistrate. You can become a magistrate if you meet the eligibility criteria and:
- have a sense of fairness
- can listen
- can make rational judgements
- can be proud representatives of their communities
What are the benefits of being a magistrate?
Becoming a magistrate is a fantastic opportunity to support your local 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
- increase and improve your problem solving, teamwork and communication skills
What support do I get?
We are committed to supporting you throughout your journey to help you succeed in your new role as a magistrate. This support includes providing you with:
- legal adviser to help them make decisions – these are qualified lawyers who will support and ensure you always follow the correct guidelines and procedures
- two other magistrate volunteers will work alongside you – one of which will be the lead magistrate
- a mentor to help you learn and develop as you settle into the role
You will also receive training in your local area and through the Judicial College via some face-to-face training and online learning sessions.
For more information on how we’ll help equip you with decision making, knowledge and skills needed to become a magistrate visit our frequently asked questions.
What should I let my employer know?
We have pulled together some information to support you when starting the discussion with your employer. Our employer advice will inform you on:
- how allowing you to volunteer as a magistrate can benefit your organisation
- your employers’ responsibilities
Your employer will also be interested in learning how employees who volunteer as magistrates prove good for business.
Become part of the difference in your local community
You can become a magistrate if you’re interested in justice, enjoy learning about cases, and would like to drive tangible change in your local community.