Nigel Hancocks, from Spalding, Lincolnshire, served in West Midlands Fire Service, as a fireman then with promotion to a Fire Service Training Instructor. He decided to become a magistrate in order to give back to the community and currently serves in courts around the South Lincolnshire area. He has found his role and all inherent activities very rewarding, adding that becoming a magistrate has been one of the best decisions he has taken, over 20 years ago.
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of life, business, services and local communities. Despite the grave uncertainty and disruption brought about by the pandemic, across the nation, we have seen a great emphasis being given to the sense of community.
In light of this, many industries and departments have made it their mission to be more representative and a greater reflection of their local communities.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has launched a new £1m campaign seeking to boost magistrate numbers by 4,000. To further reflect the diversity of the country, this campaign aims to attract people from different backgrounds to make the magistracy more representative of the communities it serves. This includes men and women from all backgrounds and career paths, including firefighters, teachers, bricklayers, stay-at-home parents, and any individuals who can display reason and sound judgement.
As a former firefighter for the West Midlands Fire Service, I have always had a keen interest in justice, community cohesion and social responsibility since my service days back in the 1970s. One of my colleagues from the Fire Service in Birmingham back in the 1970s was a magistrate – which inspired me to learn about the role and go on to apply. My driving reason to apply was to give back to the community that I belonged to in Lincolnshire. It has been a choice I will never come to regret, having found my 20-plus years volunteering as a magistrate very rewarding.
Many magistrates are ex emergency services, which I find unsurprising as many of the skills and capabilities to become firefighters, including effective communication, social competence, problem-solving, adaptability, time-management and respect, are akin to those of a magistrate. For example, as a magistrate one must display ability to listen and avoid pre-judgement; respect for everyone, irrespective of their situation, status, race, ethnicity and/or beliefs; respect and efficient communication with team members.
During some conversations with former colleagues about the role, they’ve raised concerns that they have no legal experience or training. But this is not a barrier for applying for the role. No special qualifications or experience are required, and you will be given excellent training and support. A legal advisor is also on hand to help you with any questions on the law.
As an ex-service man, I can reassure all readers that magistrates come from a range of backgrounds and work in a wide variety of ‘day’ jobs alongside volunteering as a magistrate; they are people from the community with sound judgement and common sense. In addition, as a magistrate, you can decide to volunteer as part of a small team to help make decisions on cases in the criminal or family court, offering different perspectives, an objective approach, and an honest outlook with each case.
If you are aged between 18 and 70 and can commit to at least 13 days a year, for at least five years, a magistrate role will enhance your life, sense of purpose and support towards justice and social responsibility towards the local community. From making an impact on families’ futures and children’s lives as a family-court magistrate or impacting wider society as a criminal court magistrate, you will be able to further showcase your community support, as an extension of your role as a firefighter (as magistrates’ roles are unpaid and can be done alongside your full-time job).
It is well known that firefighters are dependable members of the community who assist in a wide range of situations – acting as rescuers, community leaders, social support and role models whose life is to serve the community in which they live.
If you are interested in the role, visit icanbeamagistrate.co.uk for more information on the role and how to apply.