- Spend time in court, helping to provide justice
- Voluntary, unpaid work in court that requires no legal qualifications
- Expected to work at least 13 full days in a year or 26 half days
As a magistrate, you'll listen to cases in court and make decisions about sentences, fines, and other penalties. This is a voluntary role, and magistrates are not paid, but can claim allowances for loss of earnings.
- Sitting with two other magistrates in adult and youth courts
- Listening to evidence from witnesses, defendants, complainants and victims
- Taking advice from the court legal adviser on points of law
- Making judgements and explaining reasons
- Considering applications for bail and setting conditions
- Passing prison sentences, fines, or community and training orders
- Sending more serious cases up to crown court for jury trial
- Working in family courts, dealing with cases like adoption or domestic abuse
- Mentoring and supporting new magistrates
Your working environment may be emotionally demanding at times.
To be a magistrate, you'll need active listening skills, the ability to use your judgement and make decisions, thoroughness and attention to detail, sensitivity and understanding; knowledge of English language, excellent verbal communication skills, thinking and reasoning skills, and patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations.
You'll need to pass enhanced background checks, and security checks. You must be over 18 and under 65 when appointed, and you'll be expected to serve for at least 5 years. British nationality is not required by you should be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown.
Magistrates are selected for appointment by a local advisory committee. You do not need a legal background or law qualification, but you do need to be of good character, aware of local social issues, an understanding person, mature and fair, and 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 can get a valuable insight into the work of a magistrate's court by arranging to visit one in your local area.
With experience, you could act as the chairperson or presiding magistrate on a panel of three magistrates in court. You could also specialise in particular courts like the family court, or the youth court, dealing with young people between 10 and 17. 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, such as prison standards or sentencing guidelines.