The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sits. Vac

We need more magistrates. The workload is steadily increasing, and we need to see a net increase in our numbers in the next year or two. We have a steady trickle of retirements, and people move away, or change job, or suffer health problems.

What's the job spec. then? First of all, a commitment to serve the community, and secondly common sense. Thirdly enough time to do it, and employers' attitudes will of course vary. You must be able to sit a minimum of 26 half-days a year (although most courts sit full days) but that level means that you will take a long time to gain worthwhile experience of sitting on different sorts of cases. Most people sit for about 50 half-days, but some, such as yours truly, sit a great deal more. The Lord Chancellor grumbles about high sittings, but if the court rings me up and says that if I do not sit tomorrow they will have to close a courtroom, then I shall go in.

There is no pay, but travel and subsistence are reimbursed, and those who lose earnings can claim up to a certain amount per day. There are special arrangements for the self employed.

I shall not go into too much detail, but if anyone is curious, have a look at the Magistrates' Association site (link in the sidebar) which goes into things in depth. If you think that it might be for you, go and sit in your local court a couple of times (speak to the usher and tell them why you are there, and in some courts you might get a better seat and even a running list - you certainly do in mine).

If, having done that, you have any particular questions, either put them on the comments or email me, and I will see what I can do to help.

(Later) - I must just add one thing. Most people who apply are not appointed, but there is no shame in being rejected just as there is no honour in being chosen. Of course the assessment process is there to filter out those who are truly unsuitable (and one of the most damning is if the applicant is looking for a bit of prestige) but the committee have a duty to balance the bench in various ways to try to reflect the local community. Take the case that there are ten suitable applicants for five vacancies, but that the six most suitable are all men. Some of the less-suitable women will be appointed to maintain balance.

Someone wrote that Justice of the Peace is an honourable office, but that appointment is not an honour. It's a voluntary job of work.