Appeal goes out for new magistrates

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AN appeal is being made for people to come forward to become a magistrate.

They are required to replace a number of JPs who are due to retire after serving their time.

South East Northumberland Law Courts in Bedlington is one location where new numbers are needed.

Magistrate Christopher Hutchinson said: “There are no formal qualifications required, but as an individual you must be of good character, possess communication and sound judgement skills and be committed to the role. A typical bench of magistrates could be made up of a manual worker, a florist and a chief executive.

“In all proceedings magistrates are advised on points of law by their legal adviser.”

Local people from all sections of society and from different walks of life perform the role of Justice of the Peace.

They deal with 95 per cent of criminal cases committed in the area, including youth crime, and they also adjudicate in family court matters.

They receive training and development on a continuous basis and a mentor scheme is in operation throughout the first year. The training provides new skills or enhances existing skills in important areas such as structured decision making, effective communication, sound judgement and teamwork. These skills are transferable into the workplace.

Mr Hutchinson added: “The support employers give to their employees in allowing them time to serve in court contributes enormously in providing justice in the community.”

Magistrates are required to sit for a minimum of 26 half days per year and reimbursement of expenses can be claimed.

Mr Hutchinson said that two of the most rewarding aspects of the role are delivery of justice and finding cases interesting and challenging.

Magistrates’ other duties and responsibilities include dealing with environmental crime and crimes against business. Additional responsibilities include authorisation of search warrants, witnessing of documents and fines enforcement.

As well as Bedlington, courts in North Shields, Gateshead, and Newcastle are also looking to recruit.

“This is a vital role that we play and I invite those people who feel they could fulfil this voluntary role and make a huge contribution to local justice, to apply,” said Mr Hutchinson.

For more information contact Ingrid Headley on 0191 440 7215, email ingrid.headley@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk or visit www.direct.gov.uk/magsitrates

Applications must be in no later than June 30.