The Ministry of Justice has launched a recruitment drive for 4,000 new magistrates across England and Wales – the largest recruitment effort in 650 years of magistracy.
The government is hoping to attract people from a wide range of backgrounds to take on the voluntary role, which it said can be fulfilled easily alongside full-time employment.
Successful applicants will be expected to complete a minimum of 13 days service per year for at least five years, and will receive training, mentoring and legal support which will allow them to deal with a range of cases from traffic offences to burglary.
By expanding the number of magistrates by up to a third, the MoJ hopes to help tackle the backlog of criminal cases caused by the pandemic. Over 90% of criminal cases are dealt with by magistrates sitting in local criminal courts.
According to the MoJ, the number of magistrates in England and Wales fell 48% from 25,170 at 1 April 2012 to 13,177 at 1 April 2020. Currently, there are around 12,000 magistrates in post.
More than half (56%) as at 1 April 2020 were women, 13% were from an ethnic minority background and 80% were aged over 50.
Justice secretary Dominic Raab, said: “Magistrates are the unsung heroes of the justice system and we want people from every part of society represented in their ranks.
“If you care about your community and want to give back then I would strongly encourage you to apply to become a magistrate. There are few other opportunities that can make such a difference in people’s lives.
“Alongside our plans to double their sentencing powers from six months to a year, this recruitment drive will ensure magistrates can play an even greater role in restoring the swift justice the public deserve.”
The MoJ is seeking people with good communication skills, a sense of fairness and the ability to see an argument from a variety of standpoints.
Successful applicants, who must be between 18-70 years of age, will work across a variety of jurisdictions, including civil, criminal, family and youth cases.
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