The courts in Birmingham and Solihull are looking for new magistrates for the first time in eight years.

The number of magistrates has dropped by around 100 over the past year to 380, prompting the Court Service to launch a recruitment drive for some fresh faces to sit on the bench.

A magistrate's role is unpaid but does receive expenses and will sit in court on average for one day per fortnight.

They are the first port of call for criminal cases and around 90 per cent are dealt with by magistrates rather than being referred to the crown courts which have more power to deal with serious crimes.

The Birmingham and Solihull Bench sits in the Victoria Law Courts, in Corporation Street, and deals with cases from both boroughs.

Birmingham's Hidden Spaces: Victoria Law Courts became jewel in 'terracotta city'

Chairman of the Birmingham and Solihull bench Richard Trengrouse JP told the Post : "Our numbers are going down as the age profile of our magistrates is getting older.

"We need to recruit younger people, around 20 to work at Victoria Law Courts. Magistrates are a drawn from a wide range of backgrounds and occupations and you don't have to be a lawyer - it's life experience that really counts.

"However, the work is very diverse because of the two areas we are covering, in Birmingham and Solihull.

"Apart from our work in adult court, we deal with family and youth cases and offences range from street crime and domestic violence through to modern offences such as cyber-crime."

Anyone aged between 18 and 65 can apply to become a magistrate , including retired police officers following a change in the law which previously prevented them from sitting.

Like other members of the judiciary, magistrates must retire at 70.

Training takes 11 weeks with ongoing appraisals and assessments over the following three years with each new magistrate assigned an appraiser.

A Bench comprises three magistrates - a chairman and two wingers - who collectively decide what punishment is handed down to criminals, ranging up to a £5,000 fine and six months in prison for a single offence and 12 months in total.

They also decide terms of bail for people awaiting trial and sentencing.

Mr Trengrouse added: "We are the largest court in the country and we often welcome guests from other countries to tour the courts.

"They're often very interested in the idea of being an unpaid magistrate which is almost unique to England and Wales and has been part of our judicial system since the 14th century.

"Being a magistrate helps you learn to make very quick and effective decisions. It is a very interesting role and every day you go to court you change people's lives."

Wider recruitment is also taking place across the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire - for full details and to apply visit