Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.




Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Monday, 12 December 2016

WANT TO BE A MAGISTRATE? THEN AND NOW

When I was appointed J.P. in the 1990s the basic requirements to be considered for the post were:-



ESSENTIAL QUALITIES
There are, however, six key qualities which are regarded as vital if you are to perform
successfully in the role of a magistrate. It doesn’t matter how or where you developed
these qualities. It could be through your current or previous employment, involvement
in community or voluntary activities, public appointments, leisure activities, family life
or academic study. The most important thing is that you can demonstrate these in the
selection process and, if appointed, apply them to the role. They are:
 
° Good character: to have personal integrity and enjoy the respect and trust of others.
° Understanding and communication: to be able to understand documents,
relevant facts, follow evidence and communicate effectively.
° Social awareness: to appreciate and accept the rule of law.
° Maturity and sound temperament: to have an awareness and understanding of people and a sense of fairness.
° Sound judgement: to be able to think logically, weigh arguments and reach a sound decision.
° Commitment and reliability: to be committed to serving the community, willing to undergo training and to be in sufficiently good health to undertake your duties on a regular basis.
 
HEALTH AND DISABILITY
 
We will not be able to select you if your health prevents you from carrying out a magistrate’s range of duties. However, applications are welcomed from people with a disability who are able to carry out their duties either unassisted, or with the benefit of certain reasonable adjustments made to court premises or working/sitting arrangements in accordance with section 6 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.



NATIONALITY
 
British nationality is not a requirement

AGE

Minimum age is 27 and magistrates must retire at 70. Generally applicants must not be over 55


Current requirements are:-

 Age


You have to be over 18 and under 65.
Magistrates must retire at 70 and are normally expected to serve for at least 5 years.

Health

You need to be able to hear clearly, with or without a hearing aid, to listen to a case.
You also need to be able to sit and concentrate for long periods of time.

Personal qualities

You need to show you’ve got the right personal qualities, eg that you are:

  • aware of social issues
  • mature, understand people and have a sense of fairness
  • reliable and committed to serving the community
You also need to be able to:

  • understand documents, follow evidence and communicate effectively
  • think logically, weigh up arguments and reach a fair decision

Good character

It’s unlikely you’ll be taken on if you have been:

  • found guilty of a serious crime
  • found guilty of a number of minor offences
  • banned from driving in the past 5 to 10 years
  • declared bankrupt

Conflicts of interest

You can’t be a magistrate if you work in one of a small number of jobs where there could be a conflict of interest - eg if you are a police officer.

Time off for magistrate duties

You will need to be in court for at least 13 days, or 26 half-days, a year.
Discuss with your employer how you will balance your work and magistrate duties.

Your employer must, by law, allow you reasonable time off work to serve as a magistrate.
You will get your rota well in advance, so you can give your employer plenty of notice of when you’ll be in court.

Interesting isn`t it that you still don`t have to be British. You can retain your passport from eg Australia or Zambia and sit in judgement in a British Court if the Ministry considers you suitable.  I still haven`t made up my mind whether or not basic current advice is more realistic than that of the 90s

3 comments:

  1. In what way would "being British" make you better qualified? Two of the best JPs I sit alongside don't hold British passports. They follow their oath robustly. I could point out others with British passports who are less rounded.

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    Replies
    1. Being British is being the peer of those who are being tried or sentenced. It is being a representative of the monarchy under whose coat of arms we sit. (For what it`s worth I am a republican). It has nothing to do with competence. It is to do with legitimacy. Judicial appointments are open only to British citizens, those with a dual nationality or Irish or Commonwealth citizens.

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    2. It may have escaped your notice but not everyone who appears in the dock is British either - so as a criterion for being a "peer" it is pretty poor. Is a French citizen who has lived here for 20 years with a British spouse, and children really less able to perform this task than an Australian, or for that matter a Brit who has just moved back from 20 years overseas. Residence in the "local" area is the correct test.

      I would flip the JAC rules around and say if Commonwealth citizens are eligible, and Magistrates have no nationality requirements to "represent the Queen" then why is discriminating against EU citizens "justified". After all, for most of their appointments the candidate would need to have been legally qualified under English law to start with - meaning that even many Scots candidates are (probably reasonably) excluded.

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