Glimpse into the role of a magistrate

PEOPLE from across the county flocked to an Ipswich court – to glimpse what being a Justice of the Peace involves.The open day at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court was organised to help recruit new magistrates, after a year when none were taken on.

PEOPLE from across the county flocked to an Ipswich court - to glimpse what being a Justice of the Peace involves.

The open day at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court was organised to help recruit new magistrates, after a year when none were taken on.

Chief executive of the Suffolk Magistrates Court Committee, John Rodley said: "It's the first time in a while that we've held one of these events. We have had two low recruitment years and didn't recruit at all in the 2001/02 year. We are recruiting to ease the load, and we are looking for up to 12 new magistrates."

If successful, applicants could be working in the courts by the end of this year .

They will be interviewed and then trained once the Lord Chancellor has approved their application.

Former special constable David Chinnock is currently going through this process, and was on hand to offer advice to potential magistrates. The lorry driver applied to be a magistrate in June.

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He said: "I want to do something for the community and think that this is the best thing available to me. I've had a favourable reaction from my employers who see it as a worthwhile thing."

Magistrates are required to sit a minimum of 26 half days a year, but most work an average of 35.

Chairman of the South East Suffolk bench Bernard Hindes said: "We are trying to find young potential magistrates but it can be difficult for them to persuade their employers to let them have the time off.

"This is particularly true of teachers, and they often sit in holidays - we are flexible and work around them.

"Some employers pay but if they don't magistrates can claim loss of earnings."

Magistrates need to have a good character; understanding and communication skills, social awareness, maturity, sound temperament, a sound judgement, and commitment and reliability.

Anyone interested in becoming a magistrate, who missed Saturday's event, can contact the area support officer at their local magistrates' court.

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