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.
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
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: