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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Early Days

I occasionally get an email from someone whose interest in becoming a magistrate has been either sparked or encouraged by this blog, sometimes to ask my advice about the interview, about which I am not much help since it was all different two decades ago, and, even better, sometimes to say that they have been appointed.
So what happens once you have had that letter? Well at first there may be a delay (often due to CRB checks) then you will get a letter inviting you to an orientation meeting at the courthouse to which you are to be allocated. There you will meet your fellow recruits. You will have a bond with these throughout your time on the bench, since you train together make mistakes together, and help each other out. My year-group, of which I am the only one still sitting, still meets for dinner at least once a year. You will hear from the Bench Chairman, who will welcome you, offer his services as a confidant if you have any problems, and explain the structure of the bench. He will warn you about the decorum that will be expected of you now that you are to have the letters JP after your name, and he will outline the pitfalls that may trap the unwary - an incautious word to the press, a cross word in the wrong place, or the flash of a GATSO camera in your mirror. The Clerk or a deputy will tell you of the broad outline of your training, and when the first session will be. You will be given a lot of reading to do, and you may be advised to sort out a filing system at home - you are going to need it. You will be allocated a mentor, and you will make a number of observation visits to court (one at an 'away' court) to get the feel of the place with the mentor to talk you through what is going on. Later there will be visits to prisons and probation facilities.
Then, a few weeks later, the swearing-in. The format varies across the country, but in London it takes place at a Crown Court in front of a Circuit Judge. Our resident judge puts on a good show, sitting on his bench, flanked by the Bench Chairmen of the new JPs and with five or six wigged and robed judges standing along the back of the bench. You step forward in turn and take the Oath of Alleigance and the Judicial Oath, shake hands with His Honour, and that's it. You are one of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace. The Judge says a few words of welcome and of caution, and then those on the bench withdraw, allowing the new JPs and their guests to pose for photographs in the courtroom before going back for tea and biscuits with the Judge and the Bench Chairmen.
Your training will start straight away, and once you have done the basic bit plus your observations you can start to sit - and that's where the real learning begins.