About magistrates

Magistrates make up 85% of the judicial community and deal with over 90% of criminal cases, as well as a range of civil matters

Magistrates are ordinary people who volunteer to sit in court

Magistrates (also called Justices of the Peace) are unpaid volunteers and come from a wide range of backgrounds and occupations – from bus drivers to architects, pilots to mechanics, nursery nurses to retired people, unemployed to teachers. They are ordinary men and women with common sense and personal integrity. They are able to listen to all sides of an argument and can contribute to fair and reasonable decisions. You do not have to have any legal qualification.

Magistrates sit as one of a bench of three, including one who sits in the centre who has been trained to take the chair. They deal with a range of criminal cases such as minor theft, criminal damage, public disorder and motoring offences. Our members also sit in youth and family courts.

Ten quick facts about magistrates

  • Magistrates can be appointed from the age of 18 but have to retire at 70
  • Magistrates are also called Justices of the Peace and are allowed to use the suffix JP after the name (there are some occasions when this is not appropriate eg candidates in elections, business purposes to gain advantage)
  • Magistrates are not paid but may claim expenses
  • Magistrates are not legally qualified but are carefully and continually trained and have the benefit of a legal adviser in court
  • Magistrates use sentencing guidelines and case law to assist them to reach decisions about sentencing
  • Magistrates can choose to sit at the magistrates’ court near to their home or their work
  • There is approximately the same number of male and female magistrates
  • All magistrates take the judicial oath when they are sworn in: I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second, in the office of Justice of the Peace and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of the realm without fear or favour, affection or ill-will
  • Once appointed magistrates are allocated a mentor for the first two years who will help and support them
  • Magistrates can be removed from the bench if it is found that their behaviour is not that expected of a magistrate