Who can be a magistrate
To be a magistrate you must meet some eligibility requirements.
You do not need formal qualifications or legal training to become a magistrate.
You will get full training for the role, and a legal adviser in court will help you with questions about the law.
You have to be aged between 18 and 74. Magistrates must retire at 75.
You need to show you’ve got the right personal qualities, for example that you are:
- aware of social issues
- mature, understand people and have a sense of fairness
- reliable and committed to serving the community
You also need to be able to:
- understand documents, follow evidence and communicate effectively
- think logically, weigh up arguments and reach a fair decision
In your application and interview you’ll be asked to show you have ‘good character’. This will include questions about:
- why you’re applying
- your commitment to the role
- if you’ve done anything that might stop people trusting magistrates and their decisions, if you’re appointed
It’s unlikely you’ll be taken on if you have been:
- found guilty of a serious crime
- found guilty of a number of minor offences
- banned from driving in the past 5 to 10 years
- declared bankrupt
Time off for magistrate duties
Magistrates are normally expected to serve for at least 5 years.
You’ll need to be in court for at least 13 full days a year. You can ask to serve 26 half days instead.
If you hear cases in more than one type of court (like a criminal court and a family court), you’ll need to be:
- in court for at least 30 half days a year
- in each type of court for at least 15 half days a year
Discuss with your employer how you will balance your work and magistrate duties.
Your employer must, by law, allow you reasonable time off work to serve as a magistrate.
You will get your rota well in advance, so you can give your employer plenty of notice of when you’ll be in court.
Training to be a magistrate
In your first year, training to be a magistrate will take 3 to 5 days. You’ll also have meetings with your mentor.
After your first year you’ll have 1 to 2 training days every year.
Pay and allowances
Magistrates are not paid, but many employers allow their employees time off with pay.
If you lose out on pay, you can claim an allowance at a set rate, as well as allowances for travel and subsistence.
Find out more about magistrates’ allowances.
Conflicts of interest
You cannot be a magistrate if you have a job or role that means you could have a conflict of interest.
If you’re applying to a criminal court, this includes most roles that have a link to the criminal justice system or prisons. For example, being a police or prison officer.
If you’re applying to a family court, this includes:
- private detectives
- educational welfare officers
- police and crime commissioners
- Mackenzie friends
- those who work for the prison service and prison escort contract services