Justice of the peace (JP), bench magistrate
Magistrates are volunteers who hear cases in court. They pass judgements and hand down short sentences, fines and other penalties.
Salary range: Variable
How to become a magistrate
You can get into this role through:
- official appointment
Volunteering and experience
You can get a valuable insight into the work of a magistrate’s court by arranging to visit one in your local area. This may help if you later apply for selection to be a magistrate.
You should contact the court before you go, so that staff can direct you to the most appropriate court open to the public.
Magistrates are selected for appointment by a local advisory committee.
You do not need a legal background or law qualification to become a magistrate but you do need to be:
- of good character
- aware of local social issues
- an understanding person
- mature, with a sense of fairness
- committed to serving the community
If you’re appointed, you’ll be given training before you sit in court, which usually includes a prison visit and meeting with the probation service. You’ll also be assigned a mentor, who will support you during your first 12 months.
You’ll continue to receive professional development training and have regular in-court assessments of your work.
As a volunteer magistrate, you’ll be expected to work at least 13 full days in a year, or 26 half days. You will not be paid as a magistrate but you can claim an allowance for expenses.
You can find out more about how to become a magistrate from the:
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- active listening skills
- the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- sensitivity and understanding
- knowledge of English language
- excellent verbal communication skills
- thinking and reasoning skills
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
You must be over 18 and under 65 when appointed. You’ll be expected to serve for at least 5 years. You must retire when you reach 70.
British nationality is not required but you should be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown.
Your current job or business interests may lead to a conflict of interest and bar you from becoming a magistrate. For example if you’re a police officer or prison officer you cannot become a magistrate in the criminal court.
Your local advisory committee can tell you more about these restrictions.
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day duties may include:
- sitting with 2 other magistrates in adult and youth courts
- listening to evidence from witnesses, defendants, complainants and victims
- taking advice from the court legal adviser on points of law
- making judgements and explaining reasons
- considering applications for bail and setting conditions
- passing prison sentences, fines, or community and training orders
- sending more serious cases up to crown court for jury trial
- working in family courts, dealing with cases like adoption or domestic abuse
- mentoring and supporting new magistrates
You could work in a court or in an office.
Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.
You may need to wear smart business dress.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could act as the chairperson or presiding magistrate on a panel of 3 magistrates in court.
You could also specialise in particular courts like the family court, or the youth court, dealing with young people aged between 10 and 17. You could volunteer to mentor new magistrates or apply to sit with judges on panels hearing appeals.
You could also use your experience to join committees advising policy makers on judicial issues, for example prison standards or sentencing guidelines.