Magistrates issue invite to community to talk about their role in court

A GROUP of local magistrates wants to arrest the myths that shroud the modern court room by giving presentations in the community..

Members of the Hastings circuit are offering to give talks to groups explaining their work and the functions of their court.

The Magistrates in the Community programme has been running in the UK for 20 years.

The local branch is urging groups to get in touch so they can go along and give a talk.

There is no charge and talks can last from 20 minutes up to half a day.

Magistrates play a key role in the running of local courts and administering justice.

They must sit at lesat 26 times a year and receive constrant training and appraisals. They can be appointed from the age of 18 to 70.

The team normally attend primary, secondary, 6th form colleges, schools, community groups and employers.

The group will give case studies, talks, question and answer session and even set up role plays in mock courts to help people understand their role.

In 1195, Richard I (the Lionheart) commissioned certain knights to preserve the peace in unruly areas,the first origins of the Justice of the Peace.

They were responsible to the King for ensuring that the law was upheld and preserved the “King’s peace” and were known as “keepers of the peace.”

The world magistrate originates from the Latin ‘‘magistratus, which derives from magister (master) and from the root of magnus (great).

Michael Bustard, who sits in Hastings and Eastbourne, said: “We want to take away the mystique behind the court and create transparency.

“Justices of the Peace are not part of a secret society or an old boys network. We have nothing to hide and we want to give people the opportunity to learn more about what we do. One of the first questuion I get asked is - do you get paid? Another is why is there discrepencies in sentencing from court to court? We will give you the facts and your questions will be answered. Until people are actually summoned to court maybe for speeding or non payment of TV licence or a fine, they really have no idea what we do. This is a great opportunity to get involved and learn more about a very imprortant part of society.” For more information email: mfb@virtua.co.uk