Friday, November 20, 2009

Becoming a Magistrate - The Case for the Defence

Most instruction manuals are written by experts who really can't remember what it was like to be a clueless newbie.

For example, an AA operator once asked me whether my fallen-off-into-the-road-car-exhaust had "snapped forward of the manifold". I almost wept, because despite my extended education, there wasn't anything about the question that I understood.

Similarly, if you try researching a question along the lines of "what's so great about being a Magistrate ?" you tend to get rather unsatisfying answers.

Take the following page from the Magistrates' Association website Why become a Magistrate ?". It answers many questions, but "Why?" is certainly not one of them. I suspect the author of the page takes it totally for granted that everyone in the world knows the many benefits and that it would be a waste of typing to list them all out.

Try the main UK government website here and you get some vague Human Resources jargon and an even vaguer appeal to some kind of patriotic selfless idealism.

What you really need are some practical, tested and selfish reasons why you would benefit from getting involved.

These are my personal reasons and they are in no particular order and there are no money-back guarantees if they don't work out for you :-

  • Really quite a few of your pre-conceptions will not survive direct contact with the reality of the criminal justice system. This is a good thing - it's called "learning".
  • In your outside life you will develop confidence to make and carry out decisions that don't make everybody happy. I sweat and fret a lot less these days before doing the right thing. Look back in your life - have there been times when your attempts to please everyone have pleased nobody ? Have you avoided doing what you knew was right and mentally beat yourself up for years afterwards ? Yeah, try not to do that so much.
  • You'll meet some remarkable people in the retiring room. One or two opinionated bores and space-wasters but there again, too few to mention.
  • Doing something worthwhile that isn't motivated by the need to pay the mortgage feels great.
  • Stepping out of your day-job gives you some real insight into what's important and who you are. You realise that you are not just your job title.
  • Stepping out of your day job allows you to flex some new muscles, and to give the usual overused ones some much-needed rest
  • There will be times when your decisions make a real difference. During your next day at the office, check how many times you make decisions and of those decisions, how many of them resulted in any material change. Unless you're a forward air-controller or a heart surgeon, I suspect the number will be low.
  • By grappling with seriously hard (and often impossible) questions, you'll find that you aren't as clever as you thought you were and that there's plenty more for you to learn. I find it useful to be reminded of this now and again.
There are other minor points, involving biscuits and improved listening and note-taking skills, but the points above are the main reasons why I'm going to continue into a second year.

A bit one-sided ? Surely there are negative issues ?

Coming soon : my top ten reasons why you would be better off not applying.

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