Can you deliver justice?

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FAIR-minded people are being asked to step up to the bench and deliver criminal justice in court.

New magistrates are needed in Hartlepool to pass sentences, decide trials, settle disputes and make bail decisions.

Those filling the voluntary positions don’t need to be law experts as all are given thorough training and helped by a legal adviser in the courtroom.

And they can come from all walks of life and be aged anywhere from 18 to 70, but because they are expected to serve at least five years it is rare over 65s are taken on.

Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court is looking for five new people to sit on the bench, which in each case is made up of three magistrates, with one acting as chairman.

There are also 10 positions available at Teesside Magistrates’ Court, in Middlesbrough, after a reorganisation due to the closure of Guisborough’s court and retirements.

Michael Poole, chairman of the Cleveland Advisory Committee, which is responsible for recruiting new magistrates in the area, said: “We are looking for people of good character, understanding and common sense.

“Magistrates make serious decisions that are not taken lightly so they must have maturity, sound judgement and social awareness, while also being committed and reliable.

“It’s a very interesting role as courts are busy places that serve an important purpose. There is also excellent training available that can be used by employers, skills such as problem solving, referencing and team work.”

Because of the nature of the role, those convicted of committing a serious crime or a number of minor offences are unlikely to be considered, along with people made bankrupt.

Magistrates also deal with motoring offences, so those banned from driving in the past five to 10 years will struggle to be accepted.

Those becoming town justices must be able to sit in the court on at least 13 days, or 26 half-days, a year.

Magistrates are not paid, but many employers are said to allow time off with pay. Those who do lose out on pay can claim an allowance at a set rate, along with allowances for travel and food and drink.

Applications close at the end of March. Interviews will then take place in May and June and a submission list of suitable applicants will be sent to the Lord Chancellor’s office in September.

Mr Poole, who has served as a magistrate since 1998, added: “I would urge anyone considering applying to visit their local court and see what it is like.

“They all have public galleries and if they make themselves known then they can find out more first hand.”

Application forms and more detailed information of the role is available at www.direct.gov.uk/magistrates