Manchester’s push for magistrates during Volunteers Week
People in Manchester are being urged to consider applying to become magistrates during Volunteers Week (1-7 June).
Greater Manchester Advisory Committee is currently running a campaign through June and July looking to recruit people as magistrates in both the criminal and family courts.
The ‘I Can Be a Magistrate’ campaign aims to attract people who might not have previously considered the role. Polling around the country reveals that many people are unaware that you don’t need any qualifications or a degree to be a magistrate. Instead, what’s important are personal qualities and skills such as unbiased thinking, common sense and good judgement.
Greater Manchester has been selected as the location to pilot for a new nationwide campaign being developed by the Ministry of Justice, HM Courts and Tribunals Services and the Judiciary, which is due to launch in the autumn.
Magistrate’s Bench Chairman, Paul Brearley said,
“Being a magistrate is a rewarding and fulfilling role. It gives people the opportunity to support their community while developing a range of new skills. I would urge anyone who is interested to think of applying. You don’t need any legal knowledge or training and it takes up less time than you might think.”
Magistrates are unpaid volunteers who make decisions on criminal or family matters. They are provided with training and always have a legally qualified advisor assisting them in court. They usually sit as three, with one who acts as spokesperson as well as being responsible for conduct within the courtroom.
Every criminal case starts in the Magistrates’ Court, with the more serious cases being referred up to the Crown Court. Criminal court magistrates can impose fines, community penalties and prison sentences of up to six months. Typical cases include domestic abuse, drug offences, motoring offences, theft, assaults, criminal damage and public order offences.
In a family court, magistrates make important decisions that affect children and their families, such as helping separated parents make arrangements for their children or enforcing child maintenance orders.
Magistrates must be able to volunteer sufficient time to the role. There is a minimum expectation of being available for 13 days a year, plus additional days for training.
The closing date for applications for magistrates sitting in the family court is 30 June and 31 July for criminal courts. Those who are interested are being encouraged to find out more and register their interest at www.icanbeamagistrate.co.uk