The Ministry of Justice has launched the largest recruitment drive in the 650-year history of the magistracy, which it says could increase the workforce by up to a third.

It is urging people from all diversities and backgrounds to become magistrates as it says it needs to deal with a backlog of criminal cases caused by the pandemic.

The £1 million campaign to recruit 4,000 people is specifically for people from diverse backgrounds who can display reason and sound judgement. The MoJ said it would welcome people who are teachers, bricklayers or stay-at-home mums. It is also targeting younger people from 18 years of age as it plans to make the magistracy more representative of the communities it serves.

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said: “Magistrates are the unsung heroes of the justice system and we want people from every part of society represented in their ranks.”

The announcement comes after the Government last week unveiled plans to double magistrates’ sentencing powers from six months to a year to help drive down waiting times and bring criminals to justice more quickly. 

This recruitment drive is expected to free up an estimated 1,700 extra days of Crown Court time annually.

Mr Raab said: “If you care about your community and want to give back then I would strongly encourage you to apply to become a magistrate. There are few other opportunities that can make such a difference in people’s lives.”

Magistrates work is voluntary and individuals are expected to dedicate a minimum of 13 days a year of service, which means individuals could take on the role even when they have other responsibilities or work. 

Adam Rathbone is a 33 year old lecturer from Newcastle. He became a magistrate seven years ago. He said: “I grew up in a very deprived part of Middlesbrough and saw a lot of crime as well as victims of crime. Magistrates are the balance between the police and professional judges and the public.”

The  MoJ stresses that magistrates are given robust training and an experienced mentor in their first year to develop their skills and legal knowledge. 

The top qualities it is looking for in potential candidates are good communication skills, a sense of fairness and the ability to see an argument from different sides. 

Candidates are being sought to fill positions across all jurisdictions including criminal work, youth cases, as well as certain civil and family proceedings.