Do you have what it takes to be a magistrate?

New magistrates Laura Lawrence, Rachel Summers and Crawford Kingsnorth picture in front were welcome

Suffolk Magistrates Court is seeking new magistrates. - Credit: Jane Hunt

There are currently vacancies to become a magistrate in the county and people of all ages and from all walks of life are encouraged to apply. 

Magistrates are ordinary people who hear legal cases in court and come from a wide range of backgrounds.

No specialist knowledge or legal qualifications are required as the necessary training is provided.

Magistrates - also called Justices of the Peace - deal with 95% of all offences that come before the criminal courts, including minor assaults, theft, handling stolen goods and motoring offences.  

 After hearing the facts of cases magistrates decide on the appropriate sentence such as a fine, unpaid work in the community, a rehabilitation order or a prison sentence of up to six months.

 “Magistrates listen carefully to all evidence given in court and follow a structured decision-making process. They sit in ‘benches’ of three, and are advised on points of law by a legal adviser who sits in court with them” said Jill Stuchfield, Chair of the Suffolk Bench.  

Magistrates can also conduct hearings in Family Courts and hear cases in Youth Courts, and in these situations additional specialist training is provided.

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 The Suffolk Bench is looking for people who are reliable, committed to serving the community, aware of social issues, able to understand people, have a sense of fairness, able to think logically and willing to learn new skills.

 To be eligible to apply, you must be between the ages of 18 and 65, and not have any serious criminal convictions.

 You can’t be a magistrate if you work in a small number of jobs where there could be a conflict of interest, such as a police officer.  Being a magistrate is a voluntary role but you can claim expenses.

 The Magistrates Court covering Suffolk is in Ipswich, and magistrates must commit to at least 13 days per year plus time for ongoing training.  

Employers must, by law, allow an employee reasonable time off work to serve as a magistrate. 

“Being a magistrate is an interesting and rewarding role which allows you to develop new skills and make an important contribution to your local community,” said Mrs Stuchfield.

 You can find out more about the role, contact details for Suffolk, and how to apply here:  Magistrates Recruitment - Volunteer as a magistrate (judiciary.uk)