I am a 68-year-old Quaker and a "jobbing adjudicator". I am a magistrate or Justice of the Peace (JP) and also perform a whole host of other judicial roles. These include sitting on The General Medical Council's Fitness to Practise panels, sitting on Welfare Benefits Appeals Tribunals and other similar disciplinary panels.
This hasn’t always been the case. When I was 17, I realised that I had a vocation to be an Occupational Therapist. In those days, a vocation or calling was an accepted concept and it never occurred to me to question it. I already had my faith and, I believe, was following a leading although I wouldn’t come to use such words until I found Quakers many years later.
My career as an Occupational Therapist was long and satisfying and then suddenly, after about 30 years, my vocation left me and I asked for early retirement. When this was refused, I decided to live adventurously and left anyway.
I had always been fascinated by the legal side of the work and how it impacted in very real terms on my staff and clients. I had also been thinking for many years that I might apply to become a magistrate but had never done so. Now, the idea came again and with increasing intensity. I gave the matter much thought and decided to embark on the long application process. During this time, other opportunities arose and I soon found myself plunged into a whole variety of judicial work.
Judging is work I know I am well equipped to do. With the use of logic, clear thinking, common-sense, judicial training and following a system of structured decision making I am content and clear that I am doing my best to abide by my judicial oath (or in my case affirmation) to “do right to all manner of people….without fear or favour, affection or ill will”.
As a Quaker, there have been hurdles, not least getting used to being addressed as Madam or Your Worship! In court I always try to accord the defendants etc the dignity and respect that their very humanity demands. I believe we are all unique, precious, children of God. No-one is more important than another and no-one is unimportant. This is not only my Quaker testimony but a basic human right.
Other Quakers, especially those who are concerned about prison work/reform, may see me as “being on the other side” and have said as much. I can see what they mean but cannot accept that there are sides! In any event, JPs seldom commit defendants to custody unless their crimes are so serious that there really is no other alternative. I may not like what goes on in prisons but I do not think there is a viable, available alternative yet.
I am actively aware of the injunction “Judge not lest you be judged”. Being a magistrate or, indeed, doing any other judicial work, is not to be taken lightly. Philo, in the 1st century AD says, “A judge must bear in mind that when he tries a case, he is himself on trial.” This, I am convinced, is true and I am equally convinced that judging is what I am called to do whatever the possible cost.
The words in Micah inspire and delight me. "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?". This, to me, is what it's all about and I am absolutely sure that none of my judicial work would have been possible without my faith and Quaker membership.
Is being a Jobbing Adjudicator Quaker work? It is my firm belief that, if I’m a Quaker, then any work I do could and should be Quaker work.
Being a magistrate is unpaid, is a big commitment and can be exhausting, but it’s so worthwhile and rewarding. I do hope other Quakers might feel led to do it too.