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More magistrates needed to sit in Shropshire Courts

By Dominic Robertson | Crime | Published:

More magistrates are needed to sit in Shropshire Courts, according to the county's senior magistrate.

Russell Thomas, chairman of the Shropshire Magistrates Bench, has launched an appeal for more people to come forward and take up the roles – which work to dispense justice in the county's magistrates courts.

Magistrates are drawn from members of the public, who then undergo training enabling them to sit and adjudicate on cases heard in magistrates courts.

Shropshire now only has one working magistrates court, based at Telford Justice Centre.

Shrewsbury's Magistrates Court closed in March 2016, and now houses the county's only crown court.

Mr Thomas said that although there are nearly 100 magistrates currently on the Shropshire roster they want to ensure the levels are maintained.

He said: “Currently there are around 90 magistrates from all walks of life and from all over Shropshire who sit in the Telford Justice Centre.

"We deal with the wide range of criminal and family cases that come before the courts. But each year some retire or leave for work or family reasons and we need to ensure we take on keen, bright people to keep the bench representative of the local community.”

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A recent recruitment exercise specifically seeking people to work in family courts attracted around 30 applications, but Mr Thomas said it is hoped that a new drive to be launched in September, aimed at finding magistrates to sit in criminal courts, will generate even more interest.

“The work is fascinating and challenging,” said Mr Thomas.

"And, although it is unpaid, the reward from working as part of a team to serve the communities we live in and contribute to their well-being is immeasurable. No legal knowledge is required as full training will be provided – an empty sponge is best."

Criminal courts are open to the public and Mr Thomas said that potential applicants, who must be between 18 and 65, are encouraged to go along and sit in to see how things work before applying.

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“The court at Telford is open from 9.30am each day and you will be made welcome as a prospective magistrate” advised Mr Thomas.

"Then we can try and ensure you get to observe a range of different cases.”

For information search for 'become a magistrate' on the internet.

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