I am a great believer in civic responsibility. Of course everyone is busy and there’s no longer such as thing as spare time but I have found that putting aside one day a month enables me to address my obligations as an able citizen to be involved in the community. My small contribution is that I sit as a magistrate on the Central Hertfordshire Bench. It is vital for the strength of our criminal justice system that members of society from all walks of life sit as magistrates. I would strongly urge anyone who thinks they could spare one day a month to consider whether they could fulfill the Judicial Oath and help their community in this way.
The Judicial Oath
“I swear that I will truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second, in the Office of the Justice of the Peace and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of the Realm without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”
First, I would draw your attention that you swear to serve our “Sovereign Lady,” although devoid of most of her powers. Nevertheless, we expressly serve no party political interest.
Second, “I will do right to all manner of people” means that whoever the person before you is, in whatever the circumstances, you will never prejudge. Doing right by them is what you and your two colleagues with all consideration perceive to be just.
Third, you agree to “do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of the Realm”, i.e. to enforce the law. At this point, I think it is helpful to point out that you have a Legal Advisor whose purpose is to advise you clearly on any matter of law, but not to sway your judgment. If you are confident in making a judgment without being judgemental, then you have a vital quality in the bag.
Fourth, “without fear or favour, affection or ill will.” This means that you will be impartial and unbiased, viewing each case on its own merits and complexities. The “fear” element hopefully only relates to past days when it may have been possible for perpetrators of crimes to put pressure on Magistrates.
The work is always varied from processing a remand for an alleged murderer, to approving a search warrant, to addressing a speeding offence. All tasks are essential for the smooth running of justice in the community. Indeed, 95% of all criminal cases are processed by magistrates working in the voluntary sector!
A very rewarding element of the job is to meet fellow magistrates. I am forever amazed at the quality of the people I sit with. Both in terms of their wide breadth of experience from all walks of life but also a universal dedication to helping the wider interest of the community.
The work is very rewarding.
NB: In 2012 I resigned in order to pursue other voluntary interests.