A summary of who can be a Magistrate, selection process, and training

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Who can and can't be a Magistrate

  • Age 18-65
  • In good health (mentall and physically)
  • Live/work within local justice area
  • Able to sit for 26 half days and attend training
  • Convictions for serious offence/ collection of minor offences
  • Member of armed forces
  • Member of Parliament
  • Traffic Warden
  • Work in Criminal Justice System (eg: police, lawyer etc)
  • Close relative of Magistrate on the same bench
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6 Key Qualities of Magistrates

Good Character- trustworthy, no criminal convictions or undischarged bankrupts.

Understanding & Communication- Must be able to read, hear and follow evidence, concentrate and communicate views.

Social Awareness- Must respect others and understand local community. Need to follow and have respect for the law

Maturity and Sound temperament- fair, courteous, confident and decisive, and able to consider views of others. 

Sound judgement- Logical thinking, open mindedness and objectivity

Commitment and reliability- able to commit to 26 half days, pus training.

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Advantages and disadvantages of Magistrates Eligib

  • Represents local community (local people deliver local justice)
  • Unbias- objective view
  • ensures that people with criminal convictions do not sit
  • bring different experience of life.
  • 18-21 is too young, not enough life experience
  • May not have 'local knowledge for some areas
  • People with legal experience can't sit but can be juror
  • have to commit to 26 half days and training- blocks certain people.
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Local Advisory Committee

  • Responsible for interviewing and selecting new Magistrates 
  • Committee members are appointed by Lord Chancellor
  • Each committee headed by the Lord Lieutenant of each county
  • Includes serving Magistrates and also people unconnected with the legal system
  • Must try to ensure balance when selecting new Magistrates ~ "in terms of age, gender, ethnic origin, occupation, place of residence, and political inclination in order that the bench may reflect the community it serves"
  • Committee must ensure that no more than 15% of Magistrates should be drawn from 1 of 11 occupational categories
  • Political affiliation is no longer as important factor as it used to be
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Appointment of Magistrates

Advertisements-> Application-> LAC-> Consider application and references-> conducts two interviews with candidates.

Interview 1: looks at personal attributes, whether you have 6 key qualities, your views on contentious issues (youth crime, drunk driving etc)

Interview 2: Judicial apditude, given case studies which focus on sentencing, too identify if they are too harsh or leniant. 

-> recomendations made to Lord Chief Justice-> appointment by Lord Chancellor/Minister for Justice-> Trainint (Magistrates New Training Initiative)

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Supervised by the Judicial Studies Board

Carried out on a regional or local basis, often by Magistrates clerk who is the designated training officer.

Follows a syllabus, carrying out training in local areas by organising weekend training courses in that region

MNTI was established so that experienced Magistrates could annually appraise the less experienced and guide them through the 4 basic competencies:

1. Managing yourself

2. Working as a team member

3. Making judicial decisions

4. Managing judicial decisions (specific to role of chair person)

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Initial Training

Introductory training on basics of the role. 

3 day induction training course to observe cases and participate in workshops discussing:

  • Basic Law
  • Procedures
  • Rules of evidence
  • Principles of Sentencing

They will then sit in court with two experienced Magistrates, once Initial training is complete, the Magistrate is formally sworn in

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Mentoring and Core Training


New Magistrates guided by a specially trained mentor magistrate. New magistrate reviews their learning process and discuss any training needs, must keep a development training log.

Core Training 

During first year, Magistrates visit Prisons and YOI's and attend a 12 hour course which covers issues such as:

  • Adjourning cases
  • Bail applications
  • Legal Aid
  • Road Traffic Offences
  • Sentencing
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Training 12-18 Months, and 2nd/3rd year

Consolidation Training

Builds on the learning from sittings and core training to allow new Magistrates to plan for their ongoing development and prepare for their first appraisal

First Appraisal

About 12-18 Months after appointment, new magistrate appraised by mentor. Another specifically trained Magistrate appraiser will sit to observe whether Magistrate is competent in the 4 competences, if not, extra taining given

2nd and 3rd years 

Includes further 8 hours of training

  • Continued appraisals (ensure they meet competencies)
  • Continuation Training (once every 3 years)
  • Update Training (New legislation and procedure, delivered as required)
  • Threshold Training (eg: Chairperson, youth/family court)
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Roles of Magistrate

Criminal Matters

  • Mode of Trial (Summary or TEW)
  • Arrest/Search Warrants
  • Custody Extension
  • Bail
  • Youth Courts
  • Commit to crown court

Dual Role- Decide Verdict and Sentence

3 on a bench (chairperson and 2 wingmen)

Take advice from Legal Advisor/Magistrates Clerk

Sentencing Power- 6 months/ £5000

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