'No legal knowledge needed': Search on for new Shropshire magistrates
Magistrates are being sought to work in courts across the region after a significant increase in crime, the bench chairman for Shropshire has said.
Russell Thomas has issued the plea for people to join nearly 100 magistrates based at the court in Telford, who will then go on to work at the cluster of courts scattered around the region.
The newly appointed bench chairman said they are looking for up to 20 people over the next two to three months to sit as one of three on the magistrates' bench, known as wingers, with the option of becoming the presiding justice sitting in the centre with additional training.
Mr Thomas, who also works in the steel industry, said the current shortage of magistrates is the result of an increasing crime rate over the last 12 months.
"There has previously been an apparent decline in reported crime and we therefore have been scaling down the operation in order to meet the demands that are placed upon us," he said.
"Not only have we got a number of retirements coming up, but regrettably crime in the West Midlands has increased dramatically.
"It has been creeping up for the last 12 months or so, but we don't make any immediate decisions as we need to see whether it's a trend of just a short-term hiccup."
The part-time position is unpaid, although expenses can be claimed, and requires three-and-a-half days of intensive legal training.
Applications are open to anybody aged between 18 and 65, with a minimum time of 26 half-days required a year.
"No previous legal knowledge or experience is required – an empty sponge is the best," added Mr Thomas.
"You're allocated a senior magistrate mentor to help you through your first year so it's very much a case of if you have the right outlook and a common sense approach, then anybody from any background can apply."
Mr Thomas said the court is also looking for people to sit on the family panel as well as deal with criminal cases.
The closing date for family court applications is July 31 and applications open on September 1 for adult criminal courts.
For more information, gov.uk/become-magistrate or contact Mr Thomas on 07940410747.