Louise began her legal journey at the University of Central Lancashire, where she obtained a Master of Laws (LLM). She went on to become a solicitor and complete her LPC at Liverpool John Moores University. Throughout the past two decades, she has specialised in costs and Personal Injury litigation, gaining extensive experience advising on a diverse array of cases, ranging from highly complex catastrophic injuries to portal disputes. In 2024, she took on the role of magistrate, volunteering her time to serve and support her local community.

Becoming a magistrate

For some time now, I’ve been contemplating the idea of becoming a magistrate. The desire to contribute to the betterment of our community, where both my children and I reside, has been the main factor behind my decision to take up the role. It felt like the perfect opportunity to make a positive impact, especially as everything seemed to align well with my career and family life.

Ahead of my first sitting, I underwent 3.5 days of training. Throughout this period, I maintained regular contact with my mentor, a senior lecturer at a local university. She was very re-assuring, offering practical advice and guidance which really did help put me at ease.

Arriving at court

On my first day as a Magistrate, I left home with plenty of time to spare, the commute into the city can be difficult and I knew that there was road works ongoing on the A580. I arrived at court around 8.45am. I produced my ID on entrance to the car park and went up to the magistrate’s room to meet my mentor and go through the signing in process, location of the physical case files, how to log into the platform to obtain further case information and location of the court we would be sitting in for the day. I was introduced to the other winger and a few magistrates, all of whom gave me a very warm welcome. Nerves at this point were setting in. The butterflies, excitement and apprehension – all of which subsided as soon as I started to look through the cases in our list in more detail.

Schedule for the day

We went up to the retiring room around 9.40am and for my first sitting we were in the GAP (guilty anticipated plea) court which meant that this would require likely sentencing. It was important for me to look through the cases, types of offences and the list generally for the day. There was a real mixture of cases, assaults, drug charges, drink/drug driving and theft. I logged into the system to obtain more information as to previous history, sentencing options available with reference to the guidelines, current circumstances, severity, mitigating features and any recommendations for sentence such as probation reports.

 ‘Good Morning Your Worships’, the Legal Advisor entered the retiring room around 9.50am and we went through the lists for the AM cases, it was confirmed which parties were in attendance, whether represented and, if represented, by whom.

Magistrates sit in benches of three, a Presiding Judge (PJ) who was my mentor for my first sitting and two wingers myself and one other.

My first sitting as a magistrate

All rise on entering the court room the legal advisor asks the court to rise and we took our seats. It was at this point the reality of the situation took hold, real cases, real people, real lives and really making a difference! Integrity, the judicial oath and to do right by all manner of people was at the forefront of my mind.

It was a full, fast paced and very productive day. When dealing with offences that had more complicating factors, history of offending and/or multiple offences we would retire to consider and discuss sentence options prior to sentencing and intermittently would be greatly assisted by the legal advisor.

We issued fines, suspended sentences, mandatory driving bans were imposed and a couple of adjournments for probation reports…

Reflecting on my day

Following our final case, we headed into the retiring room for a debrief before heading home. I don’t know what I was expecting, it was definitely faster paced than perhaps I anticipated but felt I really did make a difference making vital decisions for people in the community, which is what its all about for me.

My advice to anyone considering becoming a magistrate

It is a fantastic opportunity to not only make important decisions and being part of creating positive change, but I have met some amazing people, gained new skills and boosted my confidence. What many people don’t know, a legal background or experience is not required to become a magistrate. People take up the position from all walks of life.

Support Express has provided

Express has been incredibly supportive of my new role in the justice system. This not only aids me in creating positive change for the community but also benefits the business by providing me with invaluable skills acquired through sitting, such as decision-making, critical analysis, complex problem-solving, mediation, giving and receiving constructive feedback, communication, time management and teamwork.

Louise will be expected to sit at least 13 times a year and will likely hear hundreds of cases. We want to express our gratitude to Louise for her time and wish her the best of luck as she embarks on her new role.