The magistrate first interview is an opportunity for the Local Advisory Group to assess your level of knowledge of the role of a magistrate and to also explore information relating to your character and level of reliability. You will also be asked questions that relate to the visit(s) to a magistrates' court you have carried out during your research.



Although being called for a first interview is a positive and encouraging event it must be remembered that:

- applicants whose paperwork is in order and who are not automatically disqualified will often receive a first interview as a matter of course

- this first interview will last for only around 35-40 minutes, so you will have to be highly focused on what is likely to be covered.

The interview will be held in a public building (often, but not necessarily, a courthouse) and the panel will comprise three (or, exceptionally, two) members, one of whom will usually be a non-magistrate, so the latter may come at matters very differently from the magistrate members.

He or she will be an ordinary member of the public just as you are and may ask more general questions of the kind that concern ordinary people, especially in and around the town, city or rural area where you live or work. You can only really prepare for this by being alive to the key issues and debates that are current in your own community and society in general.

But try to think ‘objective opinion’ rather than ‘overtly political stance’. Justice itself is ‘politics’ neutral and if you join the bench you will be surprised at how people with sometimes strong and differing political opinions come together to look at matters jointly, in a fair and even-handed way, free of preconceptions. Try to show that you can do this.

If you do need to offer a personal view because not to do so might make you seem a bit indifferent, try adding, in your own words, something to the effect of ‘But that’s my view and I realise that on the bench I will need to keep it to myself and look at things even-handedly and in a more rounded way’. This kind of reaction ought to be second nature; just as you should be careful never to denigrate or single out people who are ‘different’. Everyone must be treated with human dignity and all points of view respected.

Interviews are usually not overly formal and the panel may introduce themselves by their forenames and may even ask if you are happy with that form of address – the aim is to be respectful and dignified but not stuffy.

You do not need ‘to buy a new outfit’ for the occasions, but do dress and conduct yourself in such a way as to show respect for the process and the role you are seeking to undertake. Because courts are solemn places dealing with things that affect other people’s lives, a convention of ‘sober dress’ is generally observed, but equally this is a modern day and age. The last thing you want to do is look as if you have been kitted out by the ‘props department’. You will have already seen magistrates in court during your observation visit(s) and this should have removed any misleading stereotypes that you may have had I mind.

The magistrate first interview will concentrate on four main aspects:

- checking, updating and exploring further what was on the original application form
- putting the ‘Good Character and Background’ question fairly early on
- concentrating on matters such as criminal justice issues and your pre-interview court visits/observations
- the two ‘demonstrated/not demonstrated’ Key Qualities of ‘Commitment and Reliability’ and ‘Good Character’ (please refer to the earlier ‘Tips’ section for advice on both of these).

However, preliminary views will be formed on all six of the Key Qualities insofar as the opportunity to assess them has arisen - so do keep all six in mind.

Advisory Committees try to give each applicant a broadly similar interview experience. Locally, they will have pre-agreed the sort of questions to be asked and by which member of the panel.

At the first interview you may thus be asked questions along the lines:

- What were your first impressions when you did your court observations?

- What sort of cases did you see?

- What sort of procedures did you see?

- Did anything surprise you?

- What was your view of the decisions the magistrates made and the reasons they gave?

- How would you have approached any of those decisions?

- What impression did your form of the roles of all the other main ‘players’ in the courtroom? (you will have seen that, centrally, these are the defendant, court legal adviser, Crown prosecutor, defence solicitors, probation officers, police officers, prisoner escorts or possibly prison officers, witnesses and the press)

- What do you think are the main crime problems in your area (or in the country)?

- What factors do you think cause people to commit offences?

- What are your views on the recreational use of drugs?

- What particular factors do you think might give rise to youth crime?
- Have you (or somebody very close to you) ever been the victim of a crime and, if so, what was it and how did you feel about it?
- Did your views change, and if so how, when you learned more about the defendants you saw appearing in court? (remember here that people appearing before the magistrates are innocent unless and until proved guilty: so they only become ‘offenders’ if and when they are convicted and are about to be sentenced). If the situation arises, try to show that you understand this important difference.

Sample magistrate interview question

Q. Tell us about yourself?

When responding to this question try to focus on the skills and experiences that you have that are relevant to the role of a magistrate. For example:

“Hello, my name is Robert and I’m 38 years old from Leeds. I live in a stable home environment with my partner Debbie of 12 years. We have 3 wonderful children who are all currently at school. I work as a manager for a local large retail centre and I am responsible for the day to day smooth running of the operation. Within my job I have to deal with a diverse range of problems and I also get to meet many people from the local community which I very much enjoy. Because of my job I am a very good listener and I have taken on a voluntary role for a couple of hours during the weekend at the local Citizens Advise Bureau.

In my spare time I enjoy fishing and going on walks with my family. I enjoy keeping fit and I am a member of my local gym. I have also recently successfully completed a distance learning course in management.”

MAGISTRATE FIRST INTERVIEW | Suite 2 | 50 Churchill Square | Kings Hill | Kent | ME19 4YU