People from all walks of life in Hampshire are being urged to consider becoming magistrates as applications open in Hampshire for this vital role. The appeal is part of a national drive to increase the number and diversity of those volunteering across England and Wales.
The Judiciary of England and Wales and the Ministry of Justice are calling on people from Hampshire to be part of a new wave of volunteers, giving back to their local community and helping the magistracy better reflect the diversity of British society.
No legal qualifications or experience is required to be a magistrate, but volunteers will work closely with two other magistrates and a legal advisor, who offers guidance on the law. The role also gives people a chance to give back to their community, build relationships with new people and develop new skills.
From teachers to electricians, to stay-at-home parents, anyone aged between 18 and 70 who can commit to at least 13 days a year for at least five years is encouraged to come forward.
With support from magistrates across the South West the campaign seeks to boost numbers by recruiting 4,000 new magistrates across England and Wales over the next few years.
Data from 2022 on the diversity of the current magistracy in Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Wiltshire shows an increase in the number of women (56% of the magistracy) and people under 50 (19%) volunteering to be magistrates compared to last year*.
The Judiciary of England and Wales and the Ministry of Justice are continuing to build on this work to attract a wave of volunteers who are even more representative of the community they serve.
Magistrates are given robust training and an experienced mentor in their first year to develop their skills and legal knowledge. Magistrates typically develop highly transferrable skills such as critical analysis, complex problem-solving, mediation, influencing and decision-making, all of which stand to benefit them in their wider lives. Research from the Ministry of Justice amongst HR and business leaders showed they felt people who volunteer as magistrates were likely to have sound judgement (89%) and effective decision-making (81%).**
Existing magistrates are stepping forward to talk about the benefits they’ve seen in terms of their skills boost and the benefits of giving back to encourage others to take part. For example, Abdul from Bristol is a self-employed managing director. After being successful in his business and learning transferable skills as a former councillor and governor, Abdul wanted to volunteer and give back to his local community. He has now worked as a magistrate for the last 5 years.
On his role as a magistrate, Abdul says: “Being a magistrate is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Having the opportunity to learn so much about the judiciary and make a positive impact in my local community has been amazing. It’s honed my communication and judgement skills and that has transferred to my own business. You don’t need any specific legal qualifications and when magistrates do consider legal issues, such as sentencing, we are advised by legally qualified advisors.”
Steve is a retired community psychiatrist living in Exeter (pictured above). After being interested in the law from a very young age, jumped at the opportunity to become a magistrate.
On his role as a magistrate, Steve says: “I have always had an interest in law, and getting the chance to be part of the legal system whilst also serving my community is very fulfilling. As a former psychiatrist, it is important for me to balance being empathetic as well as factual and detail orientated, and this has translated well into being a magistrate. It’s a great way to broaden your horizons and meet new people with different backgrounds, experiences and opinions. If you are interested in becoming a magistrate and are able to listen, concentrate and make fair and balanced judgements, I would say get on and apply”.
Being a magistrate is a part-time role that can fit around other working commitments. From making an impact on families’ futures and children’s lives as a family court magistrate, to handling criminal cases as a criminal court magistrate, candidates are being sought to fill positions across all jurisdictions. Whether a family or criminal court magistrate, whichever role volunteers take up, magistrates regularly make decisions that will shape the lives of individuals for years to come.
Justice Minister Mike Freer said: “Magistrates have a vital role to play in our justice system and we want to see every part of society represented on their benches. By volunteering their time and experience from other walks of life, they play a hugely important part in transforming lives and delivering justice for victims.”
Mark Beattie JP, National Chair of the Magistrates’ Association, said: “The Magistrates’ Association believes that more magistrates are needed to help deliver speedier justice for all, so we welcome this continued drive to recruit 4,000 much-needed volunteers. It is crucial that magistrates reflect the communities they serve, so we would encourage those from underrepresented groups and areas to apply to perform this most rewarding of voluntary roles. We look forward to sitting alongside you and to welcoming you as members soon.”
Applications are now open in Hampshire; anyone looking to volunteer should visit icanbeamagistrate.co.uk for more information.