More commonly known as magistrates, justices of the peace in England work purely on a volunteer basis. According to Directgov, the majority of cases in Wales and England are dealt with by magistrates, who hear cases in local courts involving minor criminal acts that can result in up to one year in prison or fines up to £5,000 (approximately £4,875). While there are no specific formal qualifications to become a justice of the peace in England, applicants must be between 18 and 70 years of age and possess certain personality traits.
Assess your personality traits. Directgov states that applicants for becoming a magistrate in England must possess an even temper, reasoned judgment, trustworthiness, strong communication skills, reliability and social awareness. You must also have a clean criminal record.
Visit a Magistrates' Court. Before you can apply to be a justice of the peace, you need to go to a Magistrates' Court to observe how this role is carried out. Directgov recommends that applicants make three visits to court before submitting their applications.
Apply to your local Advisory Committee. There is no central application office for justices of the peace in England. You will need to contact the Advisory Committee nearest to you in order to find out about vacancies. When you are ready to apply, go to Directgov and download the interactive application form. This form can be mailed or submitted by e-mail for faster processing.
Prepare for your interview. Besides assessing your personality traits, your interviewer will ask you to describe your visits to the Magristrates' Court. If you are successful at your first interview, you will be invited back to interview again. After your interview the Advisory Committee will make its recommendations to the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor, who will then decide if they want to make you a magistrate.
Complete your training. Justice of the peace training takes three days. It is carried out by the justice's clerk in your local community. After finishing your training you will be ready to serve at your local Magistrates' Court. At court you will hear cases with two other justices of the peace and receive advice from an appointed legal adviser.
- Applicants can download useful pamphlets about becoming a justice of the peace in England from Directgov.
- Magistrates are not paid for their time, but can be reimbursed for related travel expenses.
- People in certain occupations, such as police officers, cannot become a justice of the peace.
- Be sure you can commit to this position. Magistrates in England must be able to complete the required training and sit in court for a minimum of 26 half-days annually. Speak with your employer before committing to magistrate duties, as you will need to take time off to serve.