The Magistrates in the Community Project (MIC) encompasses all the public relations work undertaken by magistrates at a local level including broad based MIC presentations to schools, colleges and community groups; the National Magistrates' Mock Trial Competition run in conjunction with the Citizenship Foundation; the Local Crime; Community Sentence project.
MIC is the Magistrates' Association public education project - the aim of which is to increase awareness and understanding of the work of magistrates in magistrates' courts. Its purpose is public education and increased awareness - but a valuable by-product is increased public confidence in the magistrates' courts and an interest from some observers in becoming a magistrate. Its primary focus is on the sentencing process and hence it can only be delivered by sentencers.
The key points in relation to the delivery of this project are that:
magistrates are people who live and work in the community and carry out a judicial role in order to serve that community;
magistrates are part of the judiciary and are wholly independent - they are not an agency of the criminal justice system;
increasing public awareness helps to ensure that the magistracy is representative of all parts of society;
only magistrates can explain the decision-making processes that they follow in court.
How does MIC fit into the community engagement project?
The purpose of the HMCS community engagement initiative is to fulfil the government target to improve public confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole. The initial focus is on magistrates' courts. The key points in relation to the delivery of this project are that: HMCS is a public service and works to support the operation of the courts which are run for the benefit of the public;
HMCS staff can promote and explain the operation of the courts eg that courts are open to the public, victim and witness services etc
HMCS staff will want to support magistrates in raising public awareness of there ole of the magistracy but this information can only be delivered by magistrates. At the same time but separate to MIC, the Magistrates' Association supports the role of magistrates in understanding and informing communities at public meetings, through crime and reduction partnerships etc but it is essential that magistrates follow the guidance provided by the Senior Presiding Judge in this respect because it is where judicial boundaries are essential. Magistrates are part of society and should be aware of society's concerns, but they must not be or appear to be influenced in any individual decision by what they have heard outside court. They must not get involved in discussions about any judicial decision of the court - not to protect themselves but to preserve the fairness of the system which is a protection for all.
The Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition
The Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition is an innovative and exciting way for young people to learn about the criminal justice system and specifically the role of the magistracy and courts. Around 370 schools and 75 magistrates' courts throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland are involved in the competition every year. The competition is run by theCitizenship Foundation, in partnership with the Magistrates' Association, with funding from the Ministry of Justice. It is open to state funded schools. Teams consist of 12 or 13 students, from years 8 and 9, who use carefully constructed witness statements to prepare the prosecution and defence of a specially written criminal case. Students take the role of lawyers, witnesses, magistrates and court staff and compete against other schools in a live format. Their performances are judged by real magistrates and other legal professionals and all the heats take place in magistrates' courts, usually on Saturdays.
Magistrates Puppet Theatre now available in Gloucestershire
Thanks to support from the magistrates Association we now have available to any magistrate in Gloucestershire our
own portable theatre to help demonstrate how a court room works. All the figures are very politically correct and
the whole thing is very well made, encased in a solid travelling box. This should be a very useful tool, not just
with schools and young people but also adult groups, many of whom may never have been into a court room.
At present it is sitting in Cheltenham Court 1 retiring room but it will be on show at the half yearly Magistrates
Association meeting at Cheltenham Race Course on 11th October, and hopefully at subsequent meetings. Please
contact me if you are interested in using or viewing it.
Criminal Justice Act compliant materials
Many of the old MIC materials were outdated following the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act. Many materials, including case studies/mock trial scripts and presentation guides, have been updated to make them CJA compliant and also generally improved and are available from the members only MIC section of the website at:
In order to access these materials you will
need to use a password which is made up of your membership number. Your
membership number will be a 9 digit number beginning with 70 and can be found on
the cover slip sent with your copy of The Magistrate magazine. If you’re having
trouble accessing these materials or finding your membership number then please
contact James at the national office for instructions.
How does it operate in
The support and information flow from Magistrates Association HQ to the working
level operates as follows;
Department for Constitutional Affairs
Magistrates' Association HQ
MIC Branch Liaison Officers Valerie Webb and Graham Spenser
then on to
Presenters Organisers Exhibitors
WHAT DOES MIC PROVIDE TO
A wealth of presentations, leaflets, support material and guidance is provided
on the website. In addition in Gloucestershire we have our own tried and tested presentations, available to every magistrate, and
some experienced presenters.
HOW CAN I HELP? More of you are needed to join the project. You can help us make a difference.
It doesn't matter whether you are newly appointed
or a very experienced magistrate, there is a role for EVERYONE to meet your interest and skills. Please contact your local bench coordinator in the first instance, or contact me. If there is sufficient interest we will organize a coordinator in the first instance, or contact me.
A training session to provide presenters with information, confidence and necessary skills for the delivery of high quality presentationsabout the lay magistracy.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM CONTACTED BY
THE PRESS? As a general rule any enquiries directed to individual magistrates should be
redirected, with no comment, to the
justice's clerk. MIC activities are restricted to information relating generically to lay magistrates and their work in court. MIC is NOT concerned with responding to topical issues such as the hunting ban.
I would be very
grateful if every magistrate involved in any presentations could let me know so
that I may report our activities and ensure that help and support is made available
Thank you for your persistence in reading to the end. I really look forward to
hearing from you
and together making a difference.