PEOPLE from all walks of life are being invited to serve their community, and learn new skills by volunteering as a magistrate for courts in Barrow, Carlisle and Workington.

There’s a shortage of magistrates in Cumbria and the committee that appoints them is urging people to apply before the end of the year (31 December 2020).

Chris Harris, a magistrate sitting in South Cumbria Magistrates Court, Barrow, said: "We hope to recruit 25 new volunteer magistrates for the criminal court and 15 for family court this year.

"We provide training and support and you don’t need any legal qualifications.

“In such a tough year it’s been incredible to see how community-minded people are.

"We’re appealing to that same spirit of giving back by doing something for people around you, punishing offenders, helping to get people back on track and supporting the victims of crime.

“We’re looking for people with all sorts of backgrounds, aged between 18 to 65 years-old, and we’re particularly keen to hear from young adults.

“Becoming a magistrate is professionally and personally enriching.

"It’s a role that can develop CV’s and workplace skills, from decision making and team work to leadership.

"It shows you have common sense, an ability to think logically, are calm and fair-minded. You’ll better understand your community and develop decision-making, conflict resolution, team work, communication and time management skills.

“Current magistrates are from all walks of life,” added Mr Harris.

“From shipyard workers to teachers, from council staff to house-husbands, all bringing their valuable life experiences to the role of being a magistrate.

“Magistrates are nothing more and nothing less than ordinary members of the public, committed to ensuring that those who appear in our courts are treated with fairness and justice. Being a magistrate is a privilege – and it’s by no means a role only for the privileged.

“If it sounds of interest, then I’d urge you to find out more. Or encourage someone you know to apply,” added Mr Harris.

A magistrate will normally sit in court for at least 13 days a year and they currently must retire at 70.

No prior legal knowledge is required. Magistrates receive training and normally sit as a bench of three alongside a legal adviser hearing either criminal, family cases or both.

In criminal cases, magistrates have powers to impose fines up to £5,000, community service orders and prison sentences up to six months. Magistrates decide on bail before more serious matters go to Crown Court.

In family cases, magistrates can arrange for a child to be taken into care or put up for adoption, help separated parents make arrangements for their children, enforce child maintenance orders and make orders to prevent domestic abuse.

To find out more click here.