NEW magistrates are being sought to help administer justice and combat crime in Dorset.

Also called Justices of the Peace or JPs, magistrates are unpaid volunteers who form a key part of the criminal justice system.

Angus Campbell, Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, who chairs the magistrates’ appointments panel, said they are currently looking for around 20 new magistrates in the county.

No special qualifications are needed and successful applicants would get full training.

A spokesman for the Magistrates' Association said: "Magistrates hear about 95 per cent of criminal cases and through their role in the family courts also help to protect thousands of children from harm each year.

"In addition, magistrates help the police and local authorities combat anti-social behaviour, gang violence and illegal drug-related crime.

"They are a model of what a good citizen should be, they want to give their skills, expertise and time for the good of the community of which we are all a part."

Rachel Small JP, recently appointed as a Dorset magistrate, said: "I wanted to become a magistrate because I was looking for a voluntary opportunity in my local community that would also help me learn some new skills and work with a range of different people.

"The training was really good and I’m enjoying being on the bench.

"My employer allows me time off for being in court and I’m finding balancing work, family life and being a magistrate okay."

In Dorset, criminal cases are dealt with in courts in Poole and in Weymouth, and usually decided by a team of three magistrates. A professional legal adviser in each court gives advice on the law and makes sure the magistrates follow the right procedures.

They deal with all sorts of crimes like assaults, shoplifting, motoring offences, damaging property and handling stolen goods. They pass judgement after summary trials, but cannot deal with cases where the potential sentence extends beyond their powers – a maximum of six months imprisonment.

They can come from all backgrounds, but must have "common sense and personal integrity" and be "able to listen to all sides of an argument and make fair and reasonable decisions".

You can apply if you are aged 18 to 65, willing to use a tablet or iPad and able to commit to at least 13 days per year. Many employers will give time off to work as a magistrate.

To be considered, applicants will need to show they have the qualities required, such as "understanding people, having a sense of fairness and an awareness of what’s important to people and communities".

To find out more and download an application form visit before the end of March 2018.

Or contact the Dorset Legal Admin Team at