Magistrates are lay workers who are voluntary ‘judges’ in the magistrate’s court. They hear cases that are minor criminal offences such as petty theft and small criminal damages.
There are no formal legal requirements necessary to be a magistrates but there are personal requirements necessary. The candidate must…
-Be aged 18 to 65
-Live or work near the Local Justice Area
-Be prepared to commit 26 half days a year
The Lord Chancellor for the Secretary of State for justice will not appoint anyone who meet the following criteria…
-Those with previous custodial convictions or minor offences
-Undischarged bankruptcy issues
-A serving police officer
-Full timed armed forces workers
-Any one whose community activity is incompatible with the duties of a magistrate
If the person fulfils the requirements there are six qualities that the candidate must possess have. The qualities were set by the Lord Chancellor in 1998 and are:
-Maturity and a sound temperament
-Commitments and reliability
-Understanding and communication skills
Selection and Appointment of Magistrates
A person must apply directly for the position of Lay Magistrate or must apply as a result of an advertisement in the press for the position. The application is made to the Legal Advisory Committee which is made up of existing Magistrates and other locals. If the candidate’s application is accepted they are given two interviews.
Interview One- The candidates needs to have the minimum eligibility requirements. There will also be general questions asked to assess the candidates attitude to various criminal justice issues such as drink driving or minor criminal damage.
Interview Two-This interview is more practically based as it has scenarios that can come up as possible cases in the Magistrates court. The candidate will be asked to rank the cases in order of severity and give them a potential sentence. If the candidate successfully completes both interviews, and is deemed suitable, then the LAC will submit the names to the Lord Chief Justice for approval. They will then be submitted to the Lord Chancellor to make the appointment. The new Magistrates swear their allegiance to the Queen.
The training of a new magistrate is supervised by the Judicial College. The Court Act 2003 places a statutory obligation on the Lord Chancellor to provide all training and training materials for the training of magistrates.
The Magistrates New Training Initiative (MNTI 2) provides a competence framework which is divided into four areas of competency, the areas are…