The Six Key Qualities to Becoming a Magistrate
There are six key qualities that are needed to be a magistrate, they are:
1. Good Character
2. Understanding and Communication
3. Maturity and Sound Temperament
4. Social Awareness
5. Sound Judgement
6. Commitment and Reliability
Remember GUMSSC - (Sounds a bit like gums with a 'c')
Facts About Becoming A Magistrate
To become a magistrate, it is not necessary to have any legal knowledge, nor any legal experience or academic qualifications. The formal requirements are that applicants:
- Are aged between 18 and 65
- Live or work locally to the court in which they will work
- Are able to give 26 half days a year - they will receive expenses and a small loss of earnings allowance;
- Have the six key qualities
Magistrates' must also take the Oath of Allegiance. British nationally is not required, but people seeking asylum cannot be appointed. Other groups that are excluded from becoming a magistrate are:
- Police officers, traffic wardens, and members of the armed forces;
- Anyone whose work is incompatible with a magistrates duties;
- A disability that makes it difficult to carry out the duties;
- People with certain criminal convictions;
- Undischarged bankrupts.
Selection of a New Magistrate
Where a magistrate is needed, an advertisement is placed in the local press.There are often local recruitment campaigns.
Applicants fill out an application form found on the Ministry of Justice Website. The application form reflects the eligibility criteria.
Once submitted, the form is checked to ensure that the applicant is eligible. If they are, an invitation to a first interview is sent by the Advisory Committee. This committee consists of local people, and can include magistrates (current or ex).
If the applicant is successful at first interview, they will be invited to a second interview. Here, practical examples of cases that magistrates typically have to deal with are discussed. Background checks are conducted at this stage.
The Advisory Committee consider the applications and make their recommendations to the Lord Chancellor as to who should be appointed. He then makes the appointments.
Training of Lay Magistrates
The Judicial Studies Board (JSB) are responsible for overseeing the training of magistrates:
- This happens annually
- Each court board area is responsible for training magistrates
- The Justices' Clerk is responsible for delivering training
- The Magistrates Area Training Committee sets training priorities and a training plan each year
- The Court Service and JSB produce an annual document that sets out the minimum training magistrates need to complete.
If you mix the first letters of the highlighted words around you can get the word MAJAC (bad way of saying 'magic' - it might help though)
What is involved in Training
Remember - Magistrates Training is based on Competences (what a magistrate needs to know and be able to do)
There are five stages in the first year of training, they are;
1. Initial Training - An introduction on the basics of the role. After s/he will sit in court with two other experienced magistrates.
2. Mentor - The trainee will have a mentor to guide them. There are 6 formal mentored sittings in the first 12-18 months, where the new magistrate will review his/her learning progress and talk over any training needs.
3. Core Training - (1st year) Further training. Visits to penal institutes and/or observations to equip magistrates with key knowledge they need. There is a option of having a workbook for additional study.
4. Consolidation Training - Training from sittings and core training. This is designed to help magistrates plan for their ongoing development and prepare for first appraisal.
5. First Appraisal - After 12 - 18months after appointment, when magistrate and mentor feel they are ready, the new J.P is appraised. Another trained magistrate appraiser will sit as part of the bench to observe whether the new magistrate is competent.