A new marketing campaign by the Ministry of Justice seeks to boost numbers by 4,000, with recruits expected to help tackle the backlog of criminal cases caused by the pandemic. It represents the largest recruitment effort in the 650-year history of the magistracy and could increase the workforce by up to a third in the coming years.
The £1million campaign aims to attract people from a wide range of backgrounds – from teachers to bricklayers, to stay-at-home mums, and any individuals who can display reason and sound judgment. It seeks to make the magistracy more representative of the communities it serves and will specifically target younger people – with anyone over 18 encouraged to apply online.
Each day magistrates across England and Wales make life-changing decisions in cases as varied as fraud and sexual assault. The work is voluntary with individuals expected to dedicate a minimum of 13 days a year service, meaning many magistrates often fulfill this crucial role easily alongside full-time employment and caring responsibilities.
Gilles Casse (67 years old), from New Malden, South West London, is of White and Black African heritage and has been a magistrate for 13 years. He wanted to bring diversity to the justice system and give back to the community.
Another magistrate is Silvanus Ward (60 years old) from Birmingham, West Midlands who is an Education Welfare Officer of Black British ethnicity who has been a magistrate for three years. Having been to court on numerous occasions, Silvanus wanted to see what life was like on the other side. He was inspired to become a magistrate so he could offer a different perspective to cases.
The announcement comes after the Government last week unveiled plans to double magistrates’ sentencing powers from six months to a year to help drive down waiting times and bring criminals to justice more quickly. The step is expected to free up an estimated 1,700 extra days of Crown Court time annually.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said:
“Magistrates are the unsung heroes of the justice system and we want people from every part of society represented in their ranks.
“If you care about your community and want to give back then I would strongly encourage you to apply to become a magistrate. There are few other opportunities that can make such a difference in people’s lives.
“Alongside our plans to double their sentencing powers from six months to a year, this recruitment drive will ensure magistrates can play an even greater role in restoring the swift justice the public deserve.”
All magistrates are given robust training and an experienced mentor in their first year to develop their skills and legal knowledge. The top qualities that MoJ and the Judiciary look for in potential candidates are good communication skills, a sense of fairness and the ability to see an argument from different sides. Candidates are being sought to fill positions across all jurisdictions including criminal work, youth cases, as well as certain civil and family proceedings.
Bev Higgs, National Chair of the Magistrates’ Association said:
“The Magistrates’ Association is pleased to support this recruitment campaign and would encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to contribute their lived experience, knowledge, and commitment to the judiciary.
“It is vitally important that Magistrates’ Courts reflect their local communities, and we welcome all who join us in this unique and very rewarding role.”
You can apply to become a magistrate here: https://magistrates.judiciary.uk/
Written by: Imogen Dunn