People urged to sign up to become magistrates
People are being encouraged to put themselves forwards to become a magistrate in the county.
The Judiciary of England and Wales and the Ministry of Justice is calling on people from all walks of life in Shropshire to be part of a new wave of volunteers.
It is also specifically looking to increase the diversity of magistrates.
Data on the diversity of the current magistracy in West Mercia over the last five years shows an increase in magistrates from underrepresented groups, including people from an ethnic minority background – who currently make up seven per cent of the judiciary.
Applications in Shropshire are opening for another year, and county magistrate Lisa Peters has encouraged people to sign up.
She had been a magistrate for more than 13 years, and signed up after hearing an appeal on the radio.
She said: "You get a real sense of ‘doing good’ after a day in court. Each day in court is different.
"Being a magistrate is a really interesting, important and respected role where you’ll make decisions on a variety of cases, and meet lots of different people. It’s a chance to represent your community and help ensure fair hearings and justice for all. If it sounds like something you’d be interested in, I can’t recommend applying enough.”
No legal qualifications, degree or experience are required to be a magistrate.
Volunteers will be given thorough training as well as ongoing support to help make decisions on cases in criminal or family court.
Magistrates work closely in groups of three with a legal advisor, who offers guidance on the law.
From teachers to electricians, to stay-at-home parents, anyone aged between 18 and 70 who can commit to at least 13 days a year for at least five years is encouraged to come forward.
With support from magistrates in Shropshire, the campaign seeks to boost numbers by recruiting 2,000 new magistrates across England and Wales this year.
Justice Minister Mike Freer said: “Ordinary people up and down the country play a vital role as magistrates helping ensure that crimes in their community are punished and we want more people to join them.
"I am always impressed by the people I meet who volunteer their time and experience from other walks of life and I would encourage anyone with a desire to help victims get justice to apply.”
As part of the application to sit in the criminal court, applicants are required to observe at least two magistrates’ sittings in court.
It provides an opportunity to learn more about the role and see magistrates in action.
Hearings deal with a range of offences, from less serious crimes, such as speeding and criminal damage to much more serious offences, including murder, manslaughter and robbery.
Family court hearings are heard in private so public observations are not possible.
To apply to sit in the family court, applicants must complete research exploring what it is like being a family court magistrate.
This may include watching videos and reading information on the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website.
Family court magistrates can have a significant impact on a child’s life and a family’s future. They make decisions that affect vulnerable children, such as enforcing child maintenance orders and protecting children subject to significant harm so they move to a safe environment.
Mark Beattie JP, National Chair of the Magistrates’ Association, said: “Magistrates are the cornerstone of the justice system of England and Wales, so we welcome this continued drive to recruit much-needed volunteers to help deliver speedier justice for all. Diversity is one of the strengths of the magistracy, so we would encourage those from underrepresented groups and areas to apply to perform this most rewarding of voluntary roles. We look forward to sitting alongside you and to welcoming you as members soon.”
Applications are now open in Shropshire until September 29 and anyone looking to volunteer should visit icanbeamagistrate.co.uk for more information.