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We only accept applications during recruitment campaigns. Check our current vacancies to see if we are recruiting.

Check you are eligible to apply

To volunteer with us, you must:

  • be over 18 years old
  • commit to making a minimum of 2 visits a month, usually on a weekday
  • have a right to work in the UK
  • be willing to visit courts within a 55 mile radius of your home
  • declare any potential conflicts of interest, for example if you work as a court custody officer
  • declare criminal records (although this won’t necessarily prevent you from becoming a volunteer)
  • be able to pass necessary security clearances

If you have any concerns about a possible conflict, please contact the LO Secretariat by email and we would be happy to discuss this with you.

What qualities do you need?

You do not need any formal qualifications, knowledge of the UK criminal justice system or experience to volunteer as a Lay Observer as we provide all the necessary training.

There are some key skills and attributes we look for in Lay Observers:

  • Be objective.
  • Be prepared to challenge the status quo.
  • Be analytical.
  • Have good verbal and written skills.
  • Be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of people including the individuals who will be in court custody when you see them (detained persons).
  • Have attention to detail. Be tenacious in triangulating evidence wherever possible.
  • Have good, critical observational skills.

Time requirements

Lay Observers are expected to commit to a minimum of 2 visits per month.

Although time commitments vary, the total time needed to research, travel to and visit a court, and complete a report will often take at least 8 hours. Lay Observers can choose when visits are made but are expected to undertake their visits during weekdays as many courts are not open at weekends. Some Lay Observers may have time to make more than the minimum number of visits.

There is no guarantee that a court custody suite will be occupied every day a court is open, as such flexibility around your availability to visit is encouraged.

Recruitment process

Applications will only be accepted during recruitment campaigns. If we are not currently running a campaign register your interest to be the first to hear about future vacancies.

Applications will be sifted and if successful we’ll invite you to attend an interview. You will be assessed on key Lay Observer qualities.

If successful you will have to go through security clearance. Lay Observers have unrestricted access to court custody suites when they are operational. For this reason all Lay Observers must be security cleared.

Finally we will recommend your application to the Minister for a decision on appointment.

The whole appointments process usually takes around 4-6 months, although we try to ensure times are kept to a minimum and keep applicants informed throughout the process. We understand that the wait can be frustrating but we hope that you understand why this is necessary.

Current vacancies

We only accept applications during recruitment campaigns. See if we are currently recruiting for the Lay Observers

See current vacancies