Interview with Janice, a magistrate, on her volunteering journey


Magistrate Janice

My name is Janice and I have been a magistrate for nearly 15 years, joining the Northeast Hampshire Bench in 2009. I now sit in Aldershot and Basingstoke courts.

I work full time as a nurse in cancer care. Several of my patients were and still are magistrates.

As a cancer nurse I see my patients over many months – and, in some cases, years – so this enables me to get to know them very well. We have shared our experiences as magistrates, including one magistrate who told me of the historic requirement for ladies to wear hats while sitting, with the ‘hat locker’ present in some retirement rooms!

Throughout my career I was always interested in becoming a magistrate but was unclear as to how to apply. About 17 years ago one of my patients gave me advice on the application process, which led to me applying.

I would say I use similar skills as a magistrate as I do as a nurse; these include teamwork, communications skills and informed decision making. I enjoy meeting new people and have met so many interesting individuals from all walks of life.

Volunteering and what I get out of it

I feel very strongly that as a member of any community you should contribute in whatever way you can, thereby supporting each other. Outside of my role as a magistrate, I have used my nursing experience to volunteer as a nurse at the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes each Easter for disadvantaged and disabled children. Unbeknown to me until we reached Lourdes, one of the other volunteers in my group was also a magistrate, who sat in London. He was thinking of applying to be a Presiding Justice, so we had several discussions as to what this role would entail.

I am also a bell ringer; not a very good one, but I can do the basics. This is also a group of individuals who come from many walks of life, including two of my fellow ringers who are retired judges.

I am the sort of person who likes to be busy, but with a purpose. Bell ringing is a much more practical example of volunteering compared to being a magistrate. I am also a trustee of a national charity, and though it is not that onerous in terms of work, it does require a commitment and teamwork. For me that is what I enjoy about volunteering from all three of these roles: the teamwork, meeting new individuals and regular commitment.

My youngest daughter is also a magistrate. She is now going into her fifth year as a magistrate – but obviously we never sit together.

On my duty rota at work my colleagues used to comment on my ad hoc annual leave days. When I explained why I was off they were initially surprised that I was a magistrate. Many thought it was a paid role and you needed a legal background. As time has gone on, they have a better understanding as to what the role entails, and that it is voluntary. Some have even asked how to apply – I am proactively encouraging them as they have so many life skills which they can bring to this role.