Lancashire magistrates needed due to huge number of criminal cases delayed by Covid

In a bid to tackle the backlog of criminal cases caused by the pandemic, the Ministry of Justice is seeking to boost the number of magistrates in the family court by 4,000 across the country.

By Emma Downey
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 4:26 pm

The campaign is part of a £1 million national recruitment drive to increase the number and diversity of those fulfilling the magistrate role.

With support from magistrates in Lancashire, the campaign represents the largest recruitment effort in the 650-year history of the magistracy and could increase the workforce by up to a third in the coming years.

Research shows only 28 per cent of people in the North West state they are interested in becoming a magistrate but this jumps to 43 per cent when they learn more about what is involved.

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Could you be a Lancashire magistrate?

Fiona Gilbert, 39, from Chorley who is a Civil Servant and Head of Capability at HMRC has been a magistrate since 2016.

"There are major knowledge gaps when it comes to the role of a magistrate. Many do not realise it’s a part-time role that can fit round other commitments.

"Like many, I am a working mother of two children juggling every day demands.

"My role is to ensure HMRC staff have the skills and capability to do their jobs well."

Fiona Gilbert

She added: “I became a magistrate because I wanted to give back to and feel a part of the community.

"People think we as magistrates just send people to prison but we also rehabilitate them.

"I would absolutely encourage anyone considering becoming a magistrate to do it because it is one of the most fulfilling parts of my life.

"To volunteer to become a magistrate you could even be unemployed."

"We need to increase diversity on the bench."

Currently in the North West more than half of magistrates - 56 per cent – are women, but only nine per cent are from a Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority background, with less than one in 10 magistrates 5.9 percent in the North West currently under 40.

As a family court magistrate, you make a tangible difference to the local community, improving the life of local children and a family’s future.

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You could be making decisions on childcare arrangements for separated parents who cannot agree, enforcing child maintenance orders and helping prevent domestic abuse. Although you’ll be dealing with emotional situations, you’ll have the support and training you need to handle them effectively.

The work is voluntary with individuals expected to dedicate a minimum of 13 days a year service, meaning many magistrates often fulfil this crucial role easily alongside full-time employment and caring responsibilities.

Wit no prior education needed, all magistrates are given robust training and an experienced mentor in their first year to develop their skills and legal knowledge.

The announcement comes as the government recently unveiled plans to double magistrates’ sentencing powers from six months to a year to help drive down waiting times and bring criminals to justice more quickly. The step is expected to free up an estimated 1,700 extra days of Crown Court time annually.

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said: “Magistrates are a vital pillar of our world-class justice system and we want people from every part of society represented in their ranks.

“If you care about your community and want to give back then I would encourage you to apply to become a magistrate. There are few other opportunities that can make such a difference in people’s lives."

Anyone over 18 is encouraged to consider the role.

For information on the role and how to apply CLICK HERE: