Centre for Access to Justice


JUSTICE Court Observers

Applications are now closed.

About the Project:

JUSTICE is a registered charity that strives for a fair, accessible, and equal justice system. It aims to make practical, realistic, and timely changes, by addressing some of the most urgent issues facing the United Kingdom’s legal framework. 

One strand of its work aims to focus on the role and powers of magistrates. The magistrates’ courts project investigates how to improve the processes and outcomes in respect of lay magistrates’ custodial powers, a power under which a substantial number of people are imprisoned.  

JUSTICE is particularly interested in the process by which lay magistrates reach decisions to either remand a defendant on bail or remand them in custody pending trial. JUSTICE’s project seeks to avoid the use of prison by improving decision making in respect of bail, which would result in a greater proportion of defendants being remanded on bail rather than in custody– allowing defendants to retain their community involvement and indirectly benefiting BAME defendants, who are remanded in custody more often than white defendants.  

About the Role:

Student volunteers will participate in information gathering, in which they will complete a pro-forma hearing log whilst attending and observing remand/bail hearings in magistrates’ courts. Students may wish to observe hearings in pairs at first. Volunteers will be gathering information about aspects such as: the result of the bail hearing; defendant profile and seriousness of alleged offence; quality of submissions made by the Crown and by the Defence; attitude and profile of the Bench; whether magistrates have properly followed the test in the Bail Act; and quality of reasoning.  

Students will be required to attend and observe hearings in one (or more) of the following magistrates' courts: 

  • City of London Magistrates’ Court 
  • Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court 
  • Westminster Magistrates’ Court 
  • Old Street Magistrates’ Court 
  • Thames Magistrates’ Court 
  • Stratford Magistrates’ Court and Family Court 

Guidance documents will be provided to students explaining how the hearing log is to be filled out, as well as what students can expect when they go to court, how to navigate courtrooms, interact with staff and identify where the day’s custody list is being heard.  

Please note that there is a possibility that you may experience distressing/triggering information and/or events during hearings. If you have any concerns, please do speak to a member of staff at the CAJ or your supervisor at JUSTICE.   

Time Commitment

Students are expected to commit at least half a day, once per week to carry out activities. This project will be ongoing for a duration of 3 months. 

How to apply

Applications are now closed.