Training of Magistrates

The training of magistrates is fundamental to the effective carrying out of magisterial duties. All magistrates have to satisfy regular appraisals based on a series of agreed competences and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and Judicial College core training is geared towards those. All magistrates receive such training before sitting and continue to receive training throughout their service.

Competences

 

Magistrates’ training is based on competences; a checklist of knowledge and observable behaviour that magistrates will need to demonstrate in order to successfully fulfil the role.

Training in the first year

1. Initial introductory training: Before sitting in court, a new magistrate will undergo mandatory introductory training to learn more about their duties

2. Mentoring: A new magistrate will be assigned a specially trained magistrate mentor. There are 6 formal mentored sittings in the first 12 months where the new magistrate’s progress and training needs are reviewed.

3. Initial core training: All magistrates must attend an induction course to give them the required knowledge to sit in court. In the first year, there will also be visits to penal institutions and court observations to supplement this.

4. Consolidation training: At the end of the first year, consolidation training helps magistrates plan their ongoing development and prepare for their first appraisal.

5. First appraisal About 12-18 months after appointment, the new magistrate is appraised. A magistrate who has been specially trained will sit on the bench and observe whether the new magistrate successfully demonstrates the competences.

Ongoing training and development

  • Appraisals take place every four years (every two years for presiding justices)
  • Continuation training is currently a requirement of six hours every three years. How that is delivered varies from region to region.
  • Update training on new legislation and procedures is delivered as required
  • Other introductory training takes place as required; for example when a magistrate becomes a presiding justice or chooses to sit in the family or youth courts

Who trains magistrates?

The Judicial College holds overall responsibility for magistrate training, and manages it on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice. For example, they produce and develop national training materials, issue good practice guidance and oversee the monitoring and evaluation of training nationally. HMCTS staff normally deliver the ‘face to face’ training.  Judicial College works closely with other stakeholders such as the Magistrates Association and the Justices’ Clerks’ Society.

The Justices’ Clerk (or Head of Legal Operations) in each court area is responsible for providing all compulsory and essential training to magistrates within that region. Content is guided by the national syllabus and training materials, although these may be adapted according to local needs and circumstances.

The Magistrates Association’s involvement in training includes:

  • Local branch training – some local MA branches provide ‘contextual and awareness training’ sessions on issues of local importance.
  • Promoting quality in training nationally – The MA’s Training Committee brings relevant training needs to the attention of the  appropriate stakeholders so that training  can be  kept up to date. The MA works closely with Judicial College to provide resources for the Judicial Learning Management System
  • Developing courses and learning materials – The MA produces new training courses and learning materials for the benefit of all magistrates. If you are already an MA member, you can find some training resources here.