IRTE North London Centre’s February presentation was provided by Centre committee member and magistrate David Carter JP.

Arber North London

David has volunteered as a West and Central Hertfordshire magistrate since 2007. Magistrates, also known as Justices of the Peace, are ordinary people who give back to their communities by hearing cases in criminal and/or family courts. They listen carefully to all evidence given in court, are advised on points of law by a legal adviser and follow a structured decision-making process to reach fair decisions.

David has been a member of the Magistrates’ Association since 2007 and regularly visits schools, colleges and community groups to educate people about the magistracy via the organisation’s Magistrates in the Community initiative.

This month was our turn. First, David told us all about what magistrates do, the route to becoming one, and the training that is involved. Then, he used an example of a driving offence to illustrate the often-complex decision-making process of reaching a verdict and determining the correct sentence.

It was not long before audience participation was called for. Attendees were asked to take on the roles of defendant, Crown Prosecutor, defence lawyer, court clerk, and witness. Each participant was handed a script and the role play, which was loosely based on an actual case with amendments made to tease thinking, commenced.

The remaining members of the audience were tasked with being magistrates. So, when the role play concluded, they were asked for their ‘verdict’, ‘reasons’ - which explain how the verdict was reached - and, if applicable, ‘sentence’. Much lively debate ensued, and all were surprised at the difference of opinions in the room.

This demonstrated how different people listen and process information, as well as the importance of a diverse bench.

David gave an extremely interesting and thought-provoking presentation, and I would like to extend again my gratitude to him for stepping in at short notice. Our presentation by former Squadron Leader Ian Stewart had to be postponed due to family reasons and will be scheduled later in our season’s programme.

If you are interested in finding out more about what magistrates do or applying to perform this most vital of voluntary roles, please visit:

David Carter is an experienced independent Road Transport Consultant and a magistrate in Hertfordshire. He is a Presiding Justice, mentor and appraiser for new and existing magistrates. He also sits on Crown Court appeals and is currently Chair of the Magistrates’ Association’s Hertfordshire branch.

Paul Arber I Eng FSOE FIRTE
Chairman, IRTE North London Centre

(Photo: Paul Arber, pictured right, thanks David Carter for an 'extremely interesting and thought-provoking' presentation and event)