2. Can you be a magistrate?

You need to give up some of your spare time and not everyone can serve as a magistrate.

Qualifications

You don’t 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.

Age

You have to be over 18 and under 65.

Magistrates must retire at 70 and are normally expected to serve for at least 5 years.

Health

You need to be able to hear clearly, with or without a hearing aid, to listen to a case.

You also need to be able to sit and concentrate for long periods of time.

Personal qualities

You need to show you’ve got the right personal qualities, eg 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

Good character

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

Conflicts of interest

You can’t be a magistrate if you work in one of a small number of jobs where there could be a conflict of interest - eg if you are a police officer.

Time off for magistrate duties

You will need to be in court for at least 13 days, or 26 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.

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.

Training to be a magistrate

You will need training to be a magistrate.

The training when you start will add up to about 18 hours, or 3 full days, as well as some meetings.

The training could take place over:

  • a long weekend
  • weekdays
  • short evening sessions over several weeks

Training usually takes place outside work hours.