Norfolk needs more Magistrates - could it be you?
- By Elaine Bird
- 3 months ago
Applications are now open for anyone looking to volunteer: icanbeamagistrate.co.uk
People from all walks of life in Norfolk are being urged to consider becoming magistrates as applications open in Norfolk 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 Norfolk 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 in Norfolk 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 Norfolk and Suffolk shows an increase in the number of people under 50 (17%) and people from an ethnic minority background (4%) 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, full-time electric wheelchair user Ian from Norwich, Norfolk, has been a magistrate for eight years. Ian wanted to become a magistrate after becoming disabled and feeling he didn’t want it to stop him from contributing to his community.
On his role as a magistrate, Ian says: “The role of a magistrate is an incredibly rewarding, thoughtful, and at times challenging one. The application process was straightforward, and I was really pleased with how easy it was for the appropriate changes to be made to cope with my wheelchair. It’s important the bench represents what the local community looks like; if you think you could bring a new perspective and lived experience to court then apply – it could well be the role for you. You’ll get so much from it to take into all aspects of your life.”
Samantha from Norwich, Norfolk, is a company director and has been a magistrate for six years. She has been interested in the law since childhood as her father was a police officer.
On her role as a magistrate, Samantha says: “Being a magistrate is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. It’s a chance to give back to the community by keeping the streets safe and offering people a better chance at life. You have to be a good listener. Whilst we have to be firm sometimes, we also have to balance that with compassion. If you’d like to apply, the process is very straightforward as the recruitment team guide you through step-by-step, and you’re given all the training you’ll need. The experiences you gain will stand you in such good stead for all parts of your life – and it’s so rewarding.”
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: “Magistrates are the cornerstone of the justice system of England and Wales, so we welcome this continued drive to recruit much-needed volunteers to help deliver speedier justice for all. Diversity is one of the strengths of the magistracy, 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 Norfolk; anyone looking to volunteer should visit icanbeamagistrate.co.uk for more information.