Ministry of Justice launch campaign to recruit more magistrates
A new marketing campaign launched by the Ministry of Justice seeks to boost numbers by 4,000, with recruits expected to help tackle the backlog of criminal cases caused by the pandemic. This fact sheet from the Ministry of Justice provides a brief overview of why we need magistrates, how people can take up this critical role, what it entails, and the 5 most common myths about being a magistrate. It includes case study examples from a diverse range of current magistrates and information on how to apply
What is a magistrate?
- Magistrates are volunteers – members of the public – who hear cases in courts in their community. They can hear cases in the criminal court, the family court, or both.
- Magistrates come from a range of backgrounds and work in a wide variety of ‘day’ jobs alongside volunteering as a magistrate; they are people from the community with sound judgement and common sense.
- You don’t need any special qualifications or experience to be a magistrate – you are given all the training you need, plus ongoing support.
- The Ministry of Justice aims to appoint over 4,000 new magistrates as part of a national recruitment drive and is looking for people between 18 and 70 who are prepared to give up at least 13 days a year to play a vital role in the justice system and make a positive difference to their community.
Why do we need magistrates?
- Currently, there are 12,000 magistrates sitting in local courts but more are needed.
- Over 90% of criminal cases are dealt with by magistrates.
- Magistrates are trained to hear a wide range of cases in their local criminal and family courts such as drink driving, theft, minor assault and children’s care.
- Magistrates make decisions on appropriate fines, community work or prison sentences.
- All sorts of people make good magistrates and we need more people from diverse backgrounds and professions to reflect the communities they serve.
Top 5 Myths
There are a number of public misconceptions about being a magistrate:
- “I need to be a lawyer or have a legal qualification” – no special qualifications or experience is required and you will be given excellent training and support. A legal advisor is also on hand to help you with any questions on the law.
- “It’s not for me – it’s just for the professional elite” – all sorts of people make good magistrates – from train drivers to teachers to stay-at-home parents. It’s open to anyone that wants to learn new skills and give back to the community.
- “I can’t be a magistrate because I work full time”- many magistrates do it alongside their full or part-time job. You’ll only need 13 days off a year and companies are legally bound to give you the time off.
- “I’ll miss out on earnings” – being a magistrate is unpaid but many employers allow time off with pay and if they don’t, you can claim an allowance. Your expenses, such as travel and lunch, are also paid.
- “I don’t feel qualified to make such important decisions alone” – you won’t be making these decisions on your own as you sit with two other magistrates and come to a joint judgement after hearing both sides of the case.
Criteria for being a magistrate
There are no qualifications needed for being a magistrate. The Ministry of Justice wants to attract a wide range of candidates, from all walks of life. The only key criteria are that you need to:
- Be aged between 18 and 70.
- Have sound judgement and a sense of fairness.
- Be open-minded.
- Be able to communicate with people from all backgrounds.
- Be willing to commit at least 13 days a year, for at least five years.
5 Steps to Becoming a Magistrate
- Check if the role is right for you by visiting I can be a magistrate.
- Talk to your employer and family or friends and make sure you can spare the time. You’ll need to volunteer for at least 13 days a year, for at least five years.
- Check for vacancies on the magistrate recruitment website and fill out an online application form. There is guidance to help with this in our website FAQs.
- If you’re shortlisted, you’ll be called for two interviews where you’ll be asked about your court visits.
- Once appointed, you’re not on your on – you’ll have 21 hours of training and be assigned a mentor.
Magistrate case studies
We can provide access to a wide range of current magistrates for interview. Examples include:
- Adam Rathbone, a lecturer in his early 30s who has an adopted child with his husband. Adam grew up in a very deprived part of Middlesbrough and saw a lot of crime rooted in inequality and deprivation, as well as victims of crime. He worked hard to avoid this life and get to university, where he studied to become a pharmacist. When he started working, he realised he wanted to use his skills and knowledge to start giving back to the community so became a magistrate.
- Berinder Bassral, a Black County magistrate and a family man in his late 50s, runs his own convenience store in Bristol. Berinder became a magistrate to be a role model to his own children and is also passionate about encouraging more diversity on the bench.
- Samantha Tisshaw, an accountant in her late 40s from Norfolk, who became a magistrate partly to avoid being just a ‘school run mum’. Keen to help young people make the right choices, she is also helping the deputy head of her son’s school create a programme that aims to educate children on what a magistrate is, what they may do that could be considered a crime, and the lasting impacts of these decisions.
If you would like more information about the Ministry of Justice’s campaign to recruit more magistrates, or to arrange an interview with a case study, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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