30,000 people in the UK have applied to be a magistrate, or Justice of the Peace, and been successful. Magistrates are more than often volunteers helping out the community by lending their services for the court. 97% of criminal cases are overseen by Justices of the Peace. Before applying to be a magistrate, ensure there is a good chance of being accepted.
If considering applying to become a magistrate, the best thing to do is go down to the local court, at least a few times, and see that it is what you were expecting and still what you wish to pursue. It is also wise to gain as much knowledge as possible before the interview.
What qualifications do I need?
Qualifications of a formal or academic nature are not required in order to apply to be a magistrate. It is also not highly important that the person applying has knowledge of law, as they will always be working with a legal adviser. Key qualities that help towards successful application are:
- good character
- understanding and communication
- social awareness
- maturity and sound temperament
- good, fair judgement
- commitment and reliability.
All applications to become a magistrate are dealt with by advisory committees. These are people from the local community, including some magistrates. After completing and sending an application, the advisory committee will assess the application and check all references.
This is the process after successful application:
- Your are invited to an interview.
- If successful, you are invited to a second interview.
- If successful, the application will be put forward to the lord chancellor.
- The lord chancellor will arrange a final appointment and the advisory committee will provide adequate updates.
What types of cases do magistrates deal with?
If someone has successfully applied and been accepted as a magistrate, they will work at least 26 half–day court sittings each year. Magistrates work as part of a ‘bench’. This is usually comprised of 3 magistrates and a qualified legal clerk. The court process is done in this way to maintain fairness and order in the court system.
The types of cases that magistrates will be dealing with are less serious than others. Some typical examples would be:
- criminal damage
- common assault
- public disorder
- road traffic offences
- civil disputes
- family court cases.
Volunteering as a magistrate can be very rewarding. Not only are you helping the community, you are bringing justice to the world.