About magistrates

Magistrates make up 85% of the judiciary. They sit in the criminal, family and youth courts

What is a magistrate?

Magistrates (also called Justices of the Peace) are ordinary people who hear cases in court in their community.

They sit in benches of three, including two ‘wingers’ and one who sits in the centre who has received special training to act as chair, known as the Presiding Justice. All three magistrates contribute equally to the decision-making but the Presiding Justice speaks on their behalf in court.

What do magistrates do?

Magistrates listen carefully to all evidence given in court and follow structured decision-making processes (such as sentencing guidelines in criminal cases) and case law to reach fair decisions. They are advised on points of law by a legal adviser who sits in court with them.

To find out more about what magistrates do in each court, please visit the relevant page:

Who can be a magistrate?

Magistrates come from a range of backgrounds; they are ordinary people with common sense and the capacity to make fair decisions. You must be aged between 18 and 70 and have no serious past criminal convictions.

Magistrates need to show the following characteristics:

  • Good character
  • Commitment and reliability
  • Social awareness
  • Sound judgement
  • Understanding and communication
  • Maturity and sound temperament

No legal qualifications are required to become a magistrate; you will receive all the training you need.

There are a small number of jobs which could prevent you from being a magistrate due to a conflict of interest, for example if you are a police officer you cannot sit in criminal courts.

You can find the full eligibility criteria here.

What does a magistrate earn?

This is a volunteer role, but magistrates can claim expenses.

How much time does a magistrate volunteer?

Magistrates must commit to a minimum of 26 half day sittings (13 days) per year. Employers are legally required to allow this, but it is up to them whether this will be paid or unpaid leave.

If you are interested in becoming a magistrate, you can find information about how to do this here.