Magistrates’ training is based on competences. These are essentially a description of what a magistrate needs to know and needs to be able to do so that he/she can fulfil the role. Competences include a checklist of observable behaviour and level of knowledge magistrates will need to demonstrate. They cover each courtroom role from magistrates to chairmen in adult, youth and family courts.
Magistrates continue training throughout their magisterial career.
In each court area, the justices’ clerk is responsible for providing all essential training to magistrates. This may be delegated to a training officer or bench legal adviser. Training is usually delivered within the same courts board area. Content is guided by a national syllabus and training materials, although each Area is free to make adaptations according to local needs and circumstances. In some courts magistrates will also be involved in delivering certain aspects of non-legal training. Other agencies, such as the Magistrates’ Association, may also provide contextual and awareness training to magistrates.
The Judicial College (JC) is responsible for overseeing and guiding the training of magistrates nationally. It produces and develops national training materials, good practice guidance, syllabi for training and also trains court trainers. The Board works closely with national stakeholder organisations such as the Magistrates’ Association and the Justices’ Clerks’ Society. The Association’s representatives contribute to the development of training materials and other training policy, while the Association is regularly funded to produce specific training projects on behalf of the Board. The JC also oversees the monitoring and evaluation of training nationally and reviews, on behalf of the Lord Chancellor, reports on training.
The MA was originally set up to provide training to justices when this was not delivered by the courts. Things have moved on, and the MA’s role has changed with the times but it still plays an important role in providing training for magistrates. The MA’s involvement in training covers three main areas:
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