Becoming A Magistrate Is For Community Minded People

If you enjoy listening to all sides of an argument and solving disputes then you might like to consider becoming a magistrate. A magistrate is a voluntary position and as such you won’t get paid, but you will making a difference to your community and the benefits you gain as an individual could make a real difference in your career.

Individual benefits

You can learn just how the legal system works
Improve your communication and decision making skills by working as part of a team, which in turn can benefit your employer and your career
Build your self confidence
Improve your leadership and mentoring skills
Learn to understand social issues and matters affecting your local community

Community benefits

By helping to uphold the law you will be making your local community a safer place to live. You can also help offenders try to make good the damage they have done to others through their offences by getting them involved in unpaid community work.

What is the role of a magistrate?

Magistrates are unpaid, trained members of the public who deal with the less serious criminal cases such as minor theft, motoring offences, public disturbances and criminal damage. They sit in court as a team of three magistrates and are usually of difference gender, race and ethnicity so as to present a broader experience of life. Although all three have the same decision making powers, only the most senior, the middle magistrate, will speak in court and preside over the proceedings.

Magistrates listen to more than ninety five percent of all criminal cases either in youth courts or adult courts. They hear an account of the less serious cases and refer more serious cases such as rape or murder to the higher courts. They can issue search warrants, decide upon fines, and consider bail applications. They cannot usually order jail sentences of more than 6 months or issue fines in excess of £5,000. Magistrates can also deal with civil matters such as unpaid council taxes or disagreements over licensing. In addition they may deal with family matters and will sit in a Family Proceedings Court to listen to a range of issues affecting both children and adults. More experienced magistrates can go on to deal with taking children into care and child custody.

Qualities needed to become a magistrate

A good character with personal integrity and trustworthiness
Good understanding and communication skills in order to be able to follow evidence, understand documents and identify relevant facts
Ready acceptance of the rules of the land
Sound judgement which means thinking logically, weighing an argument and reaching a fair decision
Committed and reliable in order to serve the community, undergo training and be in good health so that you can attend your duties on a regular basis
Mature and with a sound temperament so that you can relate to all types of people

Necessary Qualifications

Magistrates come from all backgrounds and walks of life. They need to be aged between 18 and 70 and are expected to serve for at least five years. Consequently, there is little point in applying if you are over the age of 65. Nor can you apply if you work in a job where there could be a conflict of interest, such as a police officer.

No specific qualifications are required since you will receive training and a legal adviser is always present to help in the courtroom.

How to apply to become a magistrate

Before applying to become a magistrate you need to visit a court near to where you live or work so that you can see if the role is for you. The court can let you know the best times to visit and which courtrooms to go and see. It’s best to visit a few times since if you get an interview you will be asked to talk about your visits.

Recruitment takes place at different times across the country so check to see if there are any available vacancies in your area. Applications will be considered by an advisory committee made up of people from the local community and including some magistrates. You can apply to become a magistrate by filling in an online form and emailing or posting it to your local advisory committee. If you are successful you will be asked for an interview, and depending on the success of that, will attend a second interview. The final decision is taken by the Lord Chancellor. Bear in mind that the whole process can take between 6 months and a year.

Time commitment

Much of your training will take place out of office hours but you will required to sit for a minimum of 26 half day sittings in court each year. As a magistrate you won’t be paid but you can claim allowances for travel, subsistence and loss of earnings. You need to be certain that you can meet the necessary time commitment, and if you are employed, you need to discuss with your employer, how you could manage the time off work to undertake your duties.

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