- Can be appointed from the age of 18, and retire at 70;
- Are volunteers, and there are around 23,000 from all walks of life;
- Do not need legal qualifications (they are assisted in court by a legal adviser);
- Must be available to carry out at least 26 half-day court sittings a year;
- Although unpaid, can claim expenses, typically for travel to and from court.
Becoming a magistrate
Candidates must satisfy the Lord Chancellor that they meet six criteria:
- Good character;
- Understanding and communication;
- Social awareness;
- Maturity and sound temperament;
- Sound judgement;
- Commitment and reliability.
Because of the need to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary, people who work in certain occupations (for example, police officers) cannot become magistrates.
How to apply
Magistrates are recruited by local Advisory Committees in each region.
Recruitment takes place at different times from area to area, so it is important to check when it is happening in your area. You can telephone your local Advisory Committee to find out when they will be recruiting and discuss any other queries you may have.
Preparation and training
Before deciding whether or not to apply, you need to visit a magistrates’ court to observe the magistrates sitting.
You will need to visit at least once (but preferably two or three times) when it is sitting in general session, in the 12 months before you apply.
Once they have been selected, all magistrates take the judicial oath – the same oath as that taken by judges.
They are trained before starting to hear cases and throughout their careers as magistrates, and are appraised regularly.
Time and money
Magistrates need to be able to commit at least 26 half-days per year to sit in court. Employers are required by law to grant reasonable time off work for magistrates.
Magistrates are not paid for their services. However, many employers allow time off with pay for magistrates.
If you do suffer loss of earnings you may claim a loss allowance at a set rate. You can also claim allowances for travel and subsistence.