Magistrates are volunteers who hear cases in court. They pass judgements and hand down short sentences, fines and other penalties.Job Category:
What you will do:
In this role, you could:
- sit with 2 other magistrates in adult and youth courts
- listen to evidence from witnesses, defendants, complainants and victims
- take advice from the court legal adviser on points of law
- make judgements and explaining reasons
- consider applications for bail and set conditions
- pass prison sentences, fines, or community and training orders
- send more serious cases up to crown court for jury trial
- work in family court cases like adoption or domestic abuse
- mentor and support new magistrates
- legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
As well as:
- active listening skills
- the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- sensitivity and understanding
- excellent verbal communication skills
- thinking and reasoning skills
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- leadership skills
You can get into this role through:
- official appointment
You can get insight into the work of a magistrate’s court by arranging to visit one in your local area. This may help if you later apply for selection to be a magistrate.
You should contact the court before you go, so that staff can direct you to the most appropriate court open to the public.
Magistrates are selected for appointment by a local advisory committee.
You do not need a legal background or law qualification to become a magistrate but you do need to be:
- of good character
- aware of local social issues
- an understanding person
- mature, with a sense of fairness
- committed to serving the community
If you’re appointed, you’ll be given training before you sit in court, which usually includes a prison visit and meeting with the probation service. You’ll also be assigned a mentor, who will support you during your first 12 months.
You’ll continue to receive professional development training and have regular in-court assessments of your work.
Restrictions and Requirements
You’ll need to:
- pass enhanced background checks
- pass security checks
You must be over 18 and under 65 when appointed. You’ll be expected to serve for at least 5 years. You must retire when you reach 70.
In the UK, British nationality is not required but you should be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown.
Your current job or business interests may lead to a conflict of interest and bar you from becoming a magistrate. For example, if you’re a police officer or prison officer you cannot become a magistrate in the criminal court.
Working Hours and Environment:
You could work in a court or in an office.
Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.
You may need to wear smart business clothes.
Career Path & Progression:
With experience, you could act as the chairperson or presiding magistrate on a panel of 3 magistrates in court.
You could also specialise in particular courts like the family court, or the youth court.
You could volunteer to mentor new magistrates or apply to sit with judges on panels hearing appeals.
You could also use your experience to join committees advising policy makers on judicial issues, for example prison standards or sentencing guidelines.