This webpage will provide you with a number of very important tips on how to pass the Magistrate Interview. In order to become a Magistrate you will need to pass a total of 2 interview.
You are advised to read the following information and your chances of passing the selection process will increase greatly. I have also provided you with a number of important tips that you should read carefully, digest and implement.
Once you have read the Magistrate Interview information below, you will find my new Magistrate Book an invaluable resource for passing the Magistrate Interview:
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 to 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 will usually be a non-magistrate who 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 doing 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 must be respected.
Interviews are usually not overly formal. 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 occasion, 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 that deal with matters that affect other people’s lives, a convention of ‘sober dress’ is generally observed. 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.
The 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 arises. 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 to the sort of questions to be asked and by which member of the panel.
Thus, at the first interview, you may be asked questions along the following 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?
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, and from Leeds. I live in a stable home environment with my partner Debbie of 12 years. We have three 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 am a member of my local gym. I have also recently successfully completed a distance learning course in management.”
If you have performed well enough at the first interview (i.e., at least to the extent that the panel does not recommend against a second interview), you will be offered a second one, usually five to 15 working days later. Therefore, the timescale may be tight.
The second interview will involve:
discussing two previously unseen case study exercises that will be handed to you upon arrival for the interview, you will be allowed only around 30 minutes to think about how you will answer both a ranking exercise and an individual case study (both described further below) before going into the interview;
an interview lasting about 40 to 50 minutes.
The interview panel will again usually comprise three members (with at least one being a non-magistrate). Membership may differ from the first panel, although sometimes one member from the first interview will serve to ensure some carry-over.
The above may sound a bit daunting but, again, remember that the panel is trying to see the ‘real you’. So, if you know what to expect, you should be able to give a good account of yourself.
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The First Case Exercise: Ranking the Seriousness of Offences
The first exercise includes around ten micro-scenarios, and you will be asked to rank them in order of seriousness as you see matters. There is no need to ‘panic’ as there is no ‘right or wrong’ answer, although:
you will be asked to explain what you took into account in each scenario and why you ranked them in the way you did;
you may be asked to comment on an opposing view of the ranking order;
you need to show that you are prepared to listen to, and consider fairly, any contrary views that the panel may put to you (don’t feel devalued or overly defensive in your ranking, as they may be taking a contrary view solely for the sake of the exercise). Be positive, make clear that you understand differences of opinion, be open-minded and fully consider any counterviews and demonstrate that you are not being ‘precious’ about your own view.
you will need to reflect that there may be legal or guideline aggravating or mitigating factors (see, e.g., the 2008 Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines at www.sentencing-guidelines.gov.uk) that you must or must not take into account of (you will later be trained in the use of these if you are appointed and need not learn them now).
you should specifically consider the harm done or likely done by an offence and the level of the offender’s culpability.
The scenarios might include, for example:
assault on a police constable;
possession of drugs;
possession of indecent pictures of children;
domestic violence (by either partner);
If you would like to obtain sample magistrate interview questions and ranking exercises please go to my website: